An insurance agent convinces her company to let her pretend to be a thief, so that she can win the trust of master burglar Robert MacDougal. But once they meet, she reveals to him that she really is a thief, and persuades him to train her up as his assistant. The only question is, who's playing who?
Though the genre dates back to Raffles and Simon Templar, the super-thief movie really got going with Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief in 1955, then caught on big time in the 1960s. A succession of glossy, cosmopolitan pictures featured beautiful stars, exotic locales, ingenious heists, circumvented security systems and robbers who never hurt anyone: Topkapi, The Thomas Crown Affair, How To Steal A Million, Dead Heat On A Merry Go Round et al.
Back then, Connery would have been perfect casting as a suave international art thief and Catherine Zeta-Jones hadn't been born. Now, both leading man and genre are wheezing creakily towards the end of the century.
The game of deception starts with a pre-credits snatch of a valuable Rubens from a New York high rise, then insurance investigator Gin Baker (Zeta-Jones) poses as a thief to get close to legendary rip-off artist MacDougal (guess who?) and entraps him into stealing a Chinese mask from an English stately home. But it turns out that Gin is really a thief (or is she?), and wants Mac to help her pull off a high-tech stunt in Malaysia that depends on the Millennium Bug (or does she?). Meanwhile, Gin's boss (Patton, hiding behind a bogus moustache) and Mac's sidekick (Rhames, doing his bit from Mission: Impossible) loiter on the sidelines (or do they?), setting up for more betrayals and reverses. Oh, and Mac's resolve never to get sexually involved with partners in crime - understandable in Rhames' case - crumbles at the sight of Zeta-Jones in an Emma Peel outfit.
Though not as execrable as The Saint, the last attempt at this sort of thing, Entrapment ambles lazily through its set-up and features only one (admittedly impressive) stretch of white-knuckle daredevilry as our heroes dangle off the tallest building in the world (which is in Kuala Lumpur, incidentally).
Otherwise, close-ups of Sean's hairy cheeks give him an Albert Steptoe look entirely at odds with his supposed sex-symbol image and he appears supremely uncomfortable in the romantic badinage department, especially during a lengthy postscript set on the most boring railway station in Southeast Asia. We've also seen rather too many so-called suspense sequences lately involving allegedly inaccessible computer terminals and programs downloaded from disks, and it's hard not to sympathise with Mac's lament that bank robbery just isn't fun any more without sacks of loot to cart away.
The plot begins promisingly enough, but runs out of steam alarmingly quickly. There's a couple of mildly diverting moments, but the plot is lacklustre at best and downright silly at worst.