1999 - Cinema’s Greatest Year Ever: ENTRAPMENT

So much butt.

It would be great for me to just call EntrapmentEncrapment” and get on with my life. That’s what my heart tells me to do in situations like this (situations where you can review a movie by adulterating its title with the word “crap”). It’s right there for the taking and everything.

But it would be false in this case. Entrapment is not Encrapment at all. It’s not Engreatment either, but I would definitely agree that it’s at least Engoodment or Enokayment.

On the other hand, were some kind of angry God with a very specific beef to erase Entrapment from our cultural history, I doubt we would miss it much. The movie doesn’t add anything as a Catherine Zeta-Jones movie, a Sean Connery movie, a heist movie, even a Ving Rhames movie. About the only thing we might mourn from the hypothetical loss of this movie is Will Patton’s truly kick ass mustache.

There is a lot of narrative weirdness to Entrapment. Not the good kind that makes a film more interesting than it should be, but rather the really bad kind that leaves you confused about what the hell is going on. Though a lot of the film focuses on a few different high-stakes theft sequences, it’s really more of a romance complicated by doublecrosses that leave you with no understanding of where the characters stand at any given time.

The film begins with someone breaking into a skyscraper to steal a nudie drawn, inked, and colored by Rembrandt. I just assumed this was Sean Connery’s stunt double, but the film later tells us it was actually Catherine Zeta-Jones’ stunt double. The problem is the movie tells us this so casually, it’s like we were supposed to already know it. When we first meet Jones (her character's name is Gin!), she’s some kind of insurance agent who is really excited to track down and catch legendary cat burglar Mac MacDougal (both these assholes have the best names!). According to her boss, she’s had a hankering to catch this guy for years. She plans to pretend to be a thief, bait him with a big score, and Entrapment him in the process. There's not really any indicator that she's actually a thief.

Later than the film expects, we discover that she actually is a thief who wants to steal stuff in order to bankroll a much bigger heist later. She needs Gus to help her with all this. I get it now. I didn’t get it when I was actually watching the film. Since she's kind of going undercover to gain Mac's trust, the scene where she tells him she actually stole the Rembrandt could go either way. Did she actually steal it, or is she using her knowledge of how the theft was pulled off to impress him?

It gets more confusing, too. It's never clear until way too late if Gin's Entrapmenting Mac or really on his side. As soon as we finally do figure out her intentions, the film reveals that he's been Entrapmenting her the whole time. For years! Even though they only just met! Then he lets her go, so maybe he wasn't really Entrapmenting her at all! But then she returns to him and they live happily ever after, so I guess all is forgiven. This is how the movie ends. I sit here, still unclear about who was Entrapmenting who, or if anyone was genuinely Entrapmenting anyone ever. What the fuck, movie?

Gin is very hot, and Mac is played by Sean Connery, so while they’re discussing their big robberies and training and whatnot, they are also falling in love. She’s pretending to be a novice; he’s pretending to not know that she’s some kind of insurance agent cop or whatever she is. Most of this flirting involves him barking harsh tutelage at her. She fights back by slinking around security lasers either in yoga pants or a silver sci-fi, butt-gripping jumpsuit. There is a lot of butt happening in this film.

It’s always strange watching an actor of great dignity in a role that predates that part of their persona. Catherine Zeta-Jones is not in full Catherine Zeta-Jones mode yet in Entrapment. She’s enthusiastic, almost ditzy. Her American accent sounds natural but doesn’t fit her. It’s a bit like watching the equally fierce Rosamund Pike play such a dumb idiot in Jack Reacher.

As for Sean Connery, he’s full of charm and doesn’t embarrass himself. He doesn’t do much, though, other than just Sean Connery his way through every scene. Like the film itself, his performance is serviceable but nothing exceptional.

If you want an exceptional performance from Entrapment, however, look no further than Maury Chaykin as fine art fencer Conrad Greene. Chaykin only gets two scenes, but they are both fleshy, sweaty overacting masterpieces. He’s strange, gross, and out of place enough to make Entrapment a movie worth seeing. Just look at the guy:

The whole point of this column is to look at regular, mediocre, largely forgotten movies from 1999. The first entry, The Other Sister, felt a lot like a movie from the 1980s. Entrapment is ‘90s all the way. From the bulky computers, to the reliance goofy gadgetry, to the heist timeline’s reliance on Y2K fears, this feels like a product of its era. And while 1999 may have been an especially good year, it was part of an especially bland era, as far as mainstream film goes. Entrapment offers a perfect example of what that era looked like. Except for the butt stuff. That would probably still be the same today.