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The Hijinks In 'Entrapment' Are Contrived, But Fun To Watch.

By James DiGiovanna

MAY 10, 1999:  SEAN CONNERY IS a cute old man, slightly stooped and liver spotted, with the kind of rich, grandfatherly voice that commands both love and respect even as it admonishes. However, and I mean this with all due respect to Mr. Connery, he is not a raging sex god.

Maybe he was once, but there is such a thing as "aging gracefully." Connery has excluded himself from that category by producing a film in which he casts himself as the object of hot young thing Catherine Zeta-Jones' lust. Not only that, but the script, approved by producer Connery, puts the beautiful and youthful Zeta-Jones in the odd position of relentlessly pursuing and being turned down by the silver-toupeed Mr. Connery.

Zeta-Jones plays insurance agent Gin Baker. Like all insurance agents, she is hell-bound for adventure, and sets off in pursuit of international art thief Robert MacDougal (played by Connery). Agent Baker lures MacDougal to her svelte side with tales of a priceless Chinese mask that they can steal together. For no good reason, MacDougal, who doesn't know Agent Baker from Eve, lives by the rule "trust no one," and has been doing pretty well for himself without her help, decides to throw in with her.

Thus, he takes her to his romantic castle on a secluded Scottish island where she must prance about in skin-tight outfits and swim naked in the moat as part of her "training." She, of course, falls madly in love with him and wants nothing more than to tear off his baggy sweater and reveal his sagging man-breasts to her beautiful young eyes. He, however, has a "rule" that he's not allowed to sleep with his partners. Since the only other "partner" he appears to have is played by burly he-man Ving Rhames, this rule seems somewhat unnecessary. Of course, the cunning MacDougal may have made the rule up on the spot just to keep the dramatic and sexual tension high, but that would imply a rather high awareness of himself as a character in a cheesy crime drama.

Anyway, while MacDougal is fending off Agent Gin's amorous advances, he's also spying on her, and finds out that she's working for The Man.

The Man is played by workhorse character-actor Will Patton. He's a fellow insurance agent who has a big crush on Zeta-Jones' callipygous character. Unfortunately, he also has one of those cop mustaches that insures its wearer will never get laid. Thus, he's no match for the Methuselahan charms of Connery's MacDougal, and so he starts to worry that Agent Gin will fall to the dark side.

But then maybe she already has...is she a thief who was pretending to be an insurance agent just to get the goods on the really hot properties? And is MacDougal planning to double-cross her? And is Will Patton just an insurance agent, or actually something more? Lots of these questions are raised in an effort to give the film something to focus on instead of Zeta-Jones' ass. But in spite of the best efforts of the scriptwriters, the ass wins. It is repeatedly and lovingly photographed, and is the centerpiece to the film's misleadingly sexy trailer.

Entrapment is not entirely awful. The actual crimes are kind of fun to watch, though they rely too heavily on gadgetry and not enough on clever planning. The best crime films--like the Mamet thriller The Spanish Prisoner, or the Mamet thriller House of Games, or the Mamet thriller Homicide, or the Mamet thriller Glengarry Glen Ross--keep the audience guessing about the crimes, revealing bit by bit what's been going on all along. Entrapment works the audience differently; instead of unfolding back-story about sophisticated and subtle crimes, the story advances by tacking on some pretty hard-to-swallow stuff wherein everyone reveals that they are not who they seem to be. Thus, the surprises come as artificial revelations instead of complex plot resolutions.

Still, Entrapment led the box-office receipts this weekend, mostly on the charms of its lead actors, who are amusing to watch as they clumsily circle their inevitable inter-generational romantic moment.

And there's a kind of perverse pleasure in watching the 68-year-old Connery scale walls, swing between towers and dive through glass windows. When my mind would drift, I would occasionally look up at the screen and wonder, "Why is James Bond's grandfather breaking into that building?"


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