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The Great Caper Collapse

Sean Connery has always been a terse, minimalist actor, spitting out his lines in tight bursts of Scottish brogue. But in Entrapment, the kingly Scot goes beyond minimalism to the point where he's practically semaphoring with his eyebrows.

As the legendary art thief Robert "Mac" MacDougal, Connery isn't just reserved, he's comatose. The picture opens with MacDougal scaling a New York skyscraper in order to steal a priceless Rembrandt. Or at least we think it's MacDougal. At any rate the heist catches the attention of a foxy agent with a prestigious New York insurance company. Gin (Catherine Zeta-Jones), it seems, has been on Mac's trail for some time. She tells her boss (an unusually sedate Will Patton) she's sure Mac is the only man alive with the moves smooth enough to have pulled off the Rembrandt job and begs him to let her go after Mac. The boss, who has a little crush on Gin, is skeptical. He already sent two of his best agents after Mac, and they vanished without a trace. Yes, she says, "But they were men."

Indeed, the one thing Gin is not is a man. Mac notices this, too, and before long the two have partnered up to steal a precious gold mask. Up to this point, nearly every aspect of this phenomenally dull movie is phenomenally routine. As expected, there is a bit of sexy banter between the male and female leads, most of it barbed and all of it designed to make it look as if the two can't stand the sight of one another. But there is not even the slightest trace of freshness or originality in either the script -- which was written by Ron Bass and William Broyles from a story by Bass and Michael Hertzberg -- or in Jon Amiel's stodgy direction.

As an actor, Connery has established great reserves of good will with his audience, but he seems determined to do nothing except cash in on it. The problem is he has been doing that so long now that he's just about emptied the tank. (When was the last time he was actually good in a film?) And, first with The Mask of Zorro and now with this, Zeta-Jones seems to have proved that her talents extend to the decorative and no further.

Her best scenes here are the ones in which she gets to put her athletic ability (and her pert bottom) on display. It would be impossible to say that she and Connery generate any heat together. Throughout most of the picture, the partners have played by Mac's rule: "Nothing personal." And to convince themselves that they are making the right decision, they keep telling themselves, over and over, "Alone is good. Alone is good." And if that's not bad enough, the dialogue further sabotages Connery in his big romantic moment with his costar by having him stammer out the line, "My situation is so... complicated." Never before has this great actor seemed so unmanned.

The finale of the picture takes us to Kuala Lumpur, where they keep the world's tallest building and the really big money. The amount? A cool $8 million, which we get to see our heroes download as one millennium gives way to another. In addition to being anticlimactic, this last section has the added feature of being entirely incomprehensible, both in its action and in its relationships. Ving Rhames has a small part (mercifully) as (we think) Mac's good friend, but everything is ultimately left so scrambled that we don't know exactly who is allied with whom. What we're finally left with is a maddening feeling of frustration. We are told what the title means, though. "Entrapment" is what a cop does to a crook. Maybe. But it's also what you feel watching a woefully unremarkable movie.

Directed by Jon Amiel. Written by Ron Bass and William Broyles, from a story by Bass and Michael Hertzberg. Starring Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Ving Rhames, and Will Patton.

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Hal Hinson

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