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Weekly Alibi "Entrapment"

By Devin D. O'Leary

MAY 10, 1999:  The 1960s were the era of the superthief. The Thomas Crown Affair, To Catch a Thief, The Pink Panther, Danger: Diabolik. There was just something about the suave, sophisticated lawbreaker that captured the public's imagination. Now, of course, we're more interested in serial killers and drug dealers. To hell with that, I say. It's time for a return to the superthief era--cool guys in tuxedoes, hot girls in catsuits, fancy cars, exotic European locales, dangerous jewel heists. What's not to like?

This summer seems primed for a return to the superthief era, thanks to the new Sean Connery vehicle Entrapment and the soon-to-be released remake of The Thomas Crown Affair (starring another Bond boy, Pierce Brosnan). Both films share a typical superthief plot--a beautiful female insurance investigator is sent to Europe to ensnare a mysterious and impeccably dressed cat burglar. Can romance and thrills be far behind?

Entrapment has the supreme foresight to have cast Sean Connery in the mysterious cat burglar role and Catherine Zeta-Jones as the beautiful investigator. Both stars are magnetic screen personalities and comprise the film's primary entertainment value. Connery needs no introduction and sports a tailor-made role in Robert "Mac" MacDougal, a legendary Scottish sneakthief suspected of having recently boosted a $24 million Rembrandt. Dark-eyed British newcomer Zeta-Jones made a big impression in last summer's The Mask of Zorro and has recently been touted as Hollywood's "next big thing." With Entrapment she displays a commanding confidence and more than proves her leading lady worth as Virginia "Gin" Baker, an eager insurance investigator who's sure she's got the goods on our man Mac.

The breezy plot of Entrapment doesn't bother much with supporting characters or subplots. In the blink of an eye, Virginia is whisked off to Mac's castle in Scotland and coerces the reclusive robber into burgling a $40 million Chinese mask. The film's central tension-building conceit is to keep viewers guessing which side of the law Gin is really on. Is she helping Mac or just setting him up for the big fall? This allows our two main characters to engage in a wary dance of trust, mistrust and seduction around one another.

A good deal has been made lately about older male stars hooking up with younger female stars. Certainly there's a double standard at work in Hollywood, and if I see Woody Allen seduce another twenty-year-old on screen, I'm gonna toss my Milk Duds. Nonetheless, despite the forty-year gap in the ages of its two stars, it's hard to chalk up Entrapment as just another unlikely Hollywood pairing. First of all, the romance between Mac and Gin is never very overt. Mac is a loner who lives by a strict set of rules--one of which states that you never get personally involved with your business partner. Second of all, our protagonists never really trust each other, so the idea of dropping their guard (or their drawers) doesn't really seem like a good idea to either of them. Still, there is a grudging attraction between the two. Any sixtysomething who failed to be tempted by the lithe form of Catherine Zeta-Jones would be nuts. Any twentysomething who failed to be intrigued by the rugged sophistication of Sean Connery would be crazy. In the end, the chemistry between Connery and Zeta-Jones works well, as they project the same kind of on-screen charisma and seasoned sensuality.

Early sequences of the duo gearing up for the big Chinese mask heist give the filmmakers plenty of opportunity to exploit the eye candy of their stars. Seeing Connery don a tux again conjures up the finest of Bondian memories. By the same token, seeing Zeta-Jones use her considerable gymnastic skills to slither through an obstacle course of pencil-thin laser beams in a skintight catsuit is an alluring treat for any viewer.

Later on, our two antiheroes find themselves embroiled in the requisite Really Big Caper--in this case, robbing a Malaysian bank of some $8 billion. As could rightfully be expected, there is a truckload of logic gaps in the plan. The high tech robbery must be committed on New Year's Eve 1999, ostensibly because that's when the world's largest bank will be shutting down its computer systems for 30 seconds to "test" for the millennium bug. Why the world's largest bank would wait until the last few seconds of 1999 to test for the millennium bug is never quite addressed. Nor is it explained how siphoning $8 billion out of the crumbling Asian economy is expected to go unnoticed. Entrapment isn't bothered with such petty details, and audiences probably shouldn't be either.

Concentrate, instead, on the breathless finale in Kuala Lumpur atop the world's tallest building. Marvel at the cool gadgets and last second escapes. Ogle the nice clothes, pretty locations and gorgeous stars. The summer movie season is officially here--enjoy it while you can.

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