In the new caper Entrapment, Sean Connery plays Robert “Mac” MacDougal, the world’s greatest art thief. The hollowest line of dialogue in the movie, which was directed by Jon Amiel from a script by Ron Bass and William Broyles, comes early on when an insurance investigator (Will Patton), scoffing at the notion that Mac could have pulled off a daring aerial abduction of a Rembrandt, says of him, “He’s 60. He’s not Spider-Man anymore.” Actually, Connery is closer to 70, but with his silver-fox dashingness, he still outshines most actors a third his age. In Entrapment, he’s more James Bond than Spider-Man. Not that he needs to be Bond, of course: I can’t think of another performer famously identified with a role – with a franchise – who went on to so thoroughly re-create himself as an actor in the public imagination. The man who gave us the archetypal debonair stud – the pop prince 007 – had it within himself to portray a fuller, more nuanced heroism. Connery’s career – both as Bond and as the actor he became – represents perhaps the most satisfying expression of masculine force in the history of movies. Because of that force, almost any scene in which he appears with a woman becomes primal.
When he has a part worthy of him – as in A Fine Madness, The Untouchables, The Russia House, or Robin and Marian – he triumphs. To be fully realized, however, he needs to be grand-scale, and very few movies – the Molly Maguires and The Man Who Would Be King, perhaps – have filled out his epic presence. The Kipling adaptation was perfect for Connery: He doesn’t, after all, need to be playing actual kings, only men with the emotions, the delusions of kings. Most of the time we learn to take Connery where we can – in junk like The Rock or mildly diverting knockoffs like Entrapment.
Amid the stunts and the fireworks and the ploddingly staged heists in cryptlike museums in London and gleaming computer banks in Kuala Lumpur, Connery actually gives a performance. So does Catherine Zeta-Jones, as Virginia Baker, an insurance investigator who is also Mac’s partner in crime. Zeta-Jones, with her Playboy After Hours contours and her rueful expressiveness, is a female counterpart to Connery. Like him, she combines the hubba hubba of pop with an expansive, nuanced presence. Connery and Zeta-Jones not only look great together, they work well together, too. Connery can sometimes seem almost alarmingly hale, but Zeta-Jones’s steady-state allure tempers him. Mac seems stunned – chastened – by her beauty; and for once in a movie featuring a May/December liaison, the age disparity isn’t ignored. We watch Mac fall in love with Virginia, who returns the favor, but regret shrouds these two: Her youthful esprit leaves him misty-eyed. Still, I could have done with less melancholia and more whoopee. There’s a perplexing scene in which Mac, about to have his way with Virginia, utters something gnomic and then backs off. You half expect Bob Dole to emerge from the shadows with a few words from Pfizer.