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Entrapment

Published: Friday, April 30 1999 12:01 a.m. MDT

After seeing "Entrapment," some lingering questions remain. Such as why star Sean Connery has so much better a toupee than his co-star Will Patton. And whether Catherine Zeta-Jones' wardrobe included anything besides skintight leotards and bedsheets.

But probably the biggest quandary is why, with the cast involved, this lethargic and too-long thriller isn't any better than it is.

An easy answer would be the presence of director Jon Amiel ("Copycat," "The Man Who Knew Too Little"), who has little flair for the tense, taut thrills that the material demands.

However, Amiel's not the only scapegoat here. Even the expected chemistry between the two stars doesn't materialize. And the confused and confusing ending feels like the result of drastic rewrites and reshoots, which surely weren't all Amiel's doing.

(Connery, who served as one of the producers, allegedly took charge of the film as production wrapped.)

The premise is reminiscent of mid-'50s Hitchcock thrillers, most prominently "To Catch a Thief," and Connery has the lead role as Robert "Mac" MacDougal, an aging master thief who now steals for the sheer thrill of it.

Mac's lone-wolf existence (and his freedom) is threatened with the arrival of Virginia "Gin" Baker (Zeta-Jones), who claims to be a fellow thief. Gin proposes an alliance between the two and offers to help steal a valuable Chinese mask.

But Mac's rightfully wary of his new partner, who is actually an insurance investigator hoping to make the biggest collar of her career.

Meanwhile, Gin's boss, Hector (Patton), is growing jealous of the

obvious attraction between his agent and her quarry, and Mac's longtime associate Thibadeaux (Ving Rhames) seems leery of the new working arrangement as well.

This all might seem clear on paper, but the plot gets much more complicated from there, with a series of elaborate double-crosses and shifting alliances that make little sense.

Also, screenwriter Ron Bass ("My Best Friend's Wedding") was obviously brought aboard for rewrites, and it shows. (Let's just say the story suffers from multiple personality disorder.)

The romantic chemistry between the two leads seems forced, and, frankly, Zeta-Jones is somewhat stiff in her line readings. But Connery is still his old charismatic self, and Amiel is able to generate some suspense in a pair of heist scenes, so it's not a complete loss.

"Entrapment" is rated PG-13 for violent gunplay and some fisticuffs, profanity (including some use of the so-called R-rated swear word), glimpses of some nude paintings, as well as some silhouetted nudity and brief drug use (opium).