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by: Scott Renshaw

At least ENTRAPMENT lets you know what you're in for from its opening shot, a sweeping helicopter approach over water towards the New York skyline. It's a shot that has opened many a recent film, one of those showy mood-setters of which imagination-impaired directors are so very fond. Of course, you can't expect much more from a director when he's working with imagination-impaired writers. There are movies that repulse you, movies that enthrall you, and then there are movies that just plug away joylessly to fill a genre slot on a release schedule. ENTRAPMENT is one of those movies apparently made by people who have spent their entire lives locked away from the world watching other movies...and not even other good movies.

The set-up finds an insurance investigator named Virginia "Gin" Baker (Catherine Zeta-Jones) fascinated with the career of a legendary art thief named Robert "Mac" MacDougal (Sean Connery). Mac has cost Gin's company millions, so Gin convinces her boss (Will Patton) to let her launch a plan to reel him in. Posing as a thief herself, Gin lures Mac into a partnership to steal a priceless Chinese mask. The alliance is, of course, an uneasey one, complicated by the distrust of Mac's partner and supplier Thibadeaux (Ving Rhames) and the romantic feelings developing between the two duplicitous characters.

It's possible that ENTRAPMENT could have gotten away with being just a heist thriller; the elaborately choreographed break-ins are decently crafted, and offer at least an occasional whiff of tension. Unfortunately, the script -- credited to Ron Bass and William Broyles, but actually the work of several more -- wants to cast Gin and Mac as star-crossed lovers, kindred spirits divided by their hidden agendas. It's a thoroughly failed attempt, since the characters are kept so enigmatic that it's never possible to understand their attraction, and their exchanges are so leaden that they might as well have the pages of the script on the table in front of them. Meanwhile, the pacing grows so lugubrious as Gin and Mac exchange loaded glances that you're likely to nod off between break-in set pieces.

The other option for a viewer is to use that time to play Spot the Cliche. Be sure to have your pad and pen ready from that opening helicopter shot, because ENTRAPMENT appears to be the product of a Script-O-Matic. From the B-follows-A dialogue exchanges (She: "There won't be any surprises." He: "There always are surprises.") to the physics-defying disappearing acts, from the ominous location-identifying on-screen titles to the training montage, the film is on auto-pilot from start to finish. Thank heaven for Ving Rhames' vaguely menacing performance, and Maury Chaykin's bizarre Sidney Greenstreet-meets-Truman Capote crime boss, or there might not have been a second of ENTRAPMENT worth remembering a day later. It's designed to be swallowed without chewing.

I suppose that's partially to avoid giving anyone in the audience reason to ponder the jaw-dropping gaps in logic. ENTRAPMENT ends with one of those "betcha didn't see that coming" conclusions which, frankly, I didn't see coming. I'd also long ago given up caring, especially when the behavior of the characters at certain points in the film makes no sense whatsoever when compared to what we eventually learn about them. You can only forgive that kind of laziness-disguised-as-cleverness if a film has been working hard to entertain you, to keep you engaged from start to finish. ENTRAPMENT is a film that just doesn't care. It's a film about theft, all right...of your money, your time, and the devices of a dozen other trite Hollywood star projects.

On the Renshaw scale of 0 to 10 cat bunglers: 3.


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