We haven’t seen much of Sean Connery on movie screens these days. Since the start of the millennium, we’ve only seen the erstwhile James Bond in two starring roles: the 2000 drama Finding Forrester, which was decent, and 2003 effects fest The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which was about as much fun as a colonoscopy. Did he retire, or has he had enough of taking the money and run? Connery has always been a welcome presence of any film he is in, but some of the movies he has starred in since his deserved Academy Award win in 1987 for The Untouchables, have been anything but welcome: Rising Sun, Highlander II, The Avengers and League are clear cut cases of an actor slumming to pick up some big retirement bucks (Hey, if I were in his shoes, I would have done the same thing. Who the hell needs dignity, anyway?).
1999’s Entrapment, recently unleashed onto the Blu-ray format by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, isn’t quite as bad as that quartet of crap, but it certainly isn’t anything to write home about. It’s a pre-Millennium, high-tech heist film that is low-tech when it comes to its characters and plot.
Catherine Zeta-Jones stars as an insurance investigator named Virginia Baker. Following the clever heist of a valuable painting, Virginia convinces her employer (Will Patton) to pursue who she thinks is the man behind the heist: an aging master thief named Robert MacDougal (Connery). She plans on passing herself off as a thief herself in order to join MacDougal and catch him in the act on his next job. MacDougal has his doubts about the young but attractive woman, but in the service of moving the plot along, he teams up with her nonetheless. Their first heist together goes well enough, which leads to The Big Score to happen on New Year’s Eve worth several billion dollars. And, of course, there are complications to be had along the way.
If you’ve seen the film or can deduce from the above synopsis, you know that the plot of Entrapment isn’t the most original. Let’s face facts, folks: when it comes to motion pictures, the heist drama has never been the deepest or most original of narrative pools. But if the characters (or the actors playing them) have charisma and the director and screenwriter can craft a few clever twists here and there toward the end that don’t make you say Huh??, you can buy into the often ludicrous plots and have some mindless fun. A great example? Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 remake of Ocean’s Eleven.
Well, Connery and Zeta-Jones certainly have charisma, but they sure as hell didn’t have anything to work with in terms of script or character. The dialogue and situations found in Entrapment are clichéd and ridiculous (made only worse by Jon Amiel’s pedestrian directing), while the characters are strictly one-dimensional (the wooden performances by Zeta-Jones and Connery help little). As for the twists and turns that come up in the film’s third act, well”remember what I said in the last paragraph about uttering the word Huh? in utter disbelief? That might be one word you utter. There are three others you might say, but I can’t reprint them here.
Does Entrapment offer anything of worth? Well, yes. If you’re a guy, the real allure of the movie lies in watching the then 29-year old Zeta-Jones slink around in some fine form-fitting outfits (points of interest to bookmark: the 36:47 and 52:20 minute marks). As Borat would say, Wawaweewa! But if Catherine’s smooth moves aren’t necessarily your bag, then there are some choice heist scenes, which are well orchestrated and executed. If neither of those floats your boat and you’re looking for anything that resembles plot, character or entertainment value, you are in the wrong place, mate.
Shot by Casino Royale cinematographer Phil Meheux, Entrapment’s visual style is a bit all over the map. Some shots are soft in focus, others are rather sharp. Since the soft focus scenes are not of Sean Connery (which one would suspect would be done in an effort to not only make him look a bit younger but also not look so much like a pervert when he makes his moves on a woman four decades younger than himself), there is no real rhyme or reason to Meheux’s photography decision making.
That said, the 1080p/MPEG-2 (2.4:1 aspect ratio) Blu-ray edition of the film is quite acceptable, coming across as very handsome, film-like presentation. While it lacks the high-definition pop that more recent films (or older ones that have gone restorations, a la The Searchers or Forbidden Planet) possess, it is a solid transfer. Black levels are good, colors are solid and compression artifacts are few and far between, making for a solid next-generation DVD debut.
As it has with all of its Blu-ray releases to date, Fox has issued Entrapment with DTS-HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio. And as is the case with the other releases I have played on my setup, I can’t fully comment on this aspect of the track because neither my Blu-ray player nor audio receiver can properly decode the DTS lossless codec. What we do get, however, is a 5.1 track that sounds just fine. The surround tracks aren’t exactly non-stop, but there is enough activity in the back speakers to be noticeable. Dialogue and music comes through cleanly in the center and front speakers, and there is some nice bass activity to be found throughout. I’ll be curious to hear a fully decoded DTS-HD MA track one of these days on one of the Fox Blu-ray titles, but in the meantime I thought that what came through my speakers on this disc did the job just fine.
Fox Home Video has released Entrapment a couple of times on regular DVD, once in a bare-bones edition back in 1999 and then in a special edition a few years later. This new Blu-ray edition is a go-between of sorts; not quite the bare bones we’ve come to expect from Fox with their Blu-ray catalog titles, but then not exactly an identical port of the special edition DVD.
Director Jon Amiel offers up a Feature-Length Audio Commentary to go along with the proceedings, and if you’re not a fan of the movie (like me), the commentary isn’t going to sway your opinion much. Amiel’s goes through the standard audio commentary motions: what is was like to work with the actors, what is going on in the scene that you are watching and so on. It’s certainly not the worst commentary I have heard, but it’s far from the best. The only other extra served up is the Theatrical Trailer in High Definition. The trailer is in okay shape and is worth watching for one or two great”ahem”shots without having to sit through the entire film.
Given the talent in front of and behind the camera (with the right material, Amiel can turn in decent directorial work), Entrapment could and should have been a clever piece of entertainment. Instead, it’s a lackadaisical effort made the slightest bit watchable because of its stars (more so the physical presence of Zeta-Jones than anything else) and a few well-executed theft scenes. Fox Home Video is once again raking HD fans over the coals with an overpriced release that offers an acceptable transfer and only a smattering of the extras found on the cheaper standard-definition DVD release. If you are a fan of the film, don’t let Fox rip you off: pick the title up from an online retailer or a site like Ebay, where chances are you will be able to find the disc for half the price of its $40 suggested retail price.
– Shawn Fitzgerald