Heist pictures live and die on the fastidious detailing of the job—the blueprints, the security, the entrances and exits, and the precise timing of criminal artisans fulfilling their specific duties. This becomes especially important when the heist gets complicated: In Steven Soderbergh's crackerjack Ocean's Eleven remake, for example, the caper logistics and execution take up virtually all of the run time. The big score in Brett Ratner's smug thriller After The Sunset ranks as another mission impossible, but the director has packaged it inside a slick buddy picture circa 1985, centering on a jocular rivalry pumped up by dumb machismo. When it comes time for the actual robbery, so little has been explained that the plan seems ridiculously easy in some respects and totally improbable in others.
A director whose populist instincts override any others, Ratner sought to bring his 2002 film Red Dragon closer to Thomas Harris' novel than Michael Mann's moody 1986 adaptation Manhunter, but instead converted it to a standard-issue serial-killer movie. In a broad sense, After The Sunset could be a pale revision of Mann's superior Heat, with its cat-and-mouse game between likable professionals on both sides of the law. Still looking like the straight-to-video James Bond, Pierce Brosnan plays a master thief who vows to retire after lifting the second of three "Napoleon Diamonds" in an audacious daytime heist. He moves to an island paradise with his partner and girlfriend Salma Hayek, but old temptations beckon when the third diamond happens to be put on display in a docked cruise ship. Brosnan insists that he's not interested, but FBI agent Woody Harrelson shows up on the island to ensure that Brosnan doesn't make off with the jewel.
In the long stretch leading up to the robbery, Brosnan and Harrelson exchange friendly taunts, each so convinced that the other is hoodwinked that they can both relax (or at least pretend to relax) in the world of Jimmy Buffett songs. The heist itself is already complicated, so the idea of having a cop watch a crook as he plans and executes the crime is an enticing challenge on a screenwriting level. But Ratner and writer Paul Zbyszewski seem more interested in macho one-upmanship and gay jokes than figuring out how Brosnan can steal the diamond out from under Harrelson's nose. Since all Harrelson has to do is keep Brosnan in sight until the ship and the jewel depart, After The Sunset's climax counts as the most egregious of many cheats.