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If you’ve seen the trailer for this cat-and-mouse-burglary schemer, you’ll remember the shot of Catherine Zeta-Jones’ rump undulating through strung lines of red thread. These threads are meant to simulate the laser beams of a security system protecting a priceless gold mask, which Zeta-Jones’ character and her criminal mentor, played by Sean Connery, are attempting to steal. Because this is the best scene in the movie and the undulating is part of a training exercise, you get to see it again (tight workout leggings) and a third time (vinyl trousers) when they actually pinch the mask. That’s no reflection on Zeta-Jones’ abilities as an actor, although what those abilities are is hard to say—she is so ridiculously beautiful she might as well be emoting coarsely in Swahili; I wouldn’t really notice.

Is it the coming of the next millennium that has screenwriters freaking out over who’s on what side? Entrapment is so vague about Virginia “Gin” Baker’s precise job—insurance agent?—and her fascination with veteran superburglar “Mac” MacDougal (Connery) that the stinger payoff, when it comes, isn’t satisfying; nor is the queasy-making pas de deux of attraction between the shuave sheptugenarian and the ripe young thing. (Guess who falls harder and faster?) What is clear is that the big heist is set for what the titles call “millennium,” as in “Kuala Lumpur, three days to millennium,” as if it’s the code for a top-secret mission or an international holiday. They’re a little fuzzy on the year as well, but rest assured that a lot of cool new burglary tech will be developed by either December 1999 or 2000. Mac and Gin have quite the sophisticated bag of tricks at their disposal; it’s a wonder everybody isn’t out pinching crown jewels.

It seems that once a newly insured Rembrandt is lifted from a rock-solid secure building, Gin has her excuse to go after suspect No. 1 on behalf of her insurance bosses. Posing as a thief, she follows Mac to his next job, where he turns the tables by snapping incriminating photographs of her casing the joint. (It’s another steel-and-glass construction, modern architecture’s gift to movies like this, where Mac is heisting computer chips worth—all together now in Dr. Evil’s voice—$1 million each.) He takes her on, and they repair to his castle on a remote Scottish island to prepare for the next gig—the theft of this spectacular gold mask.

A Rembrandt, a world-famous solid-gold relic, and later, $8 billion—apparently nothing big Mac steals is much missed. He’s a smooth, gentlemanly thief of the good-whiskey-and-black-gloves variety, keeping his protégé on edge with mini lectures about trust and perfection. Ving Rhames pops up every half-hour or so with a shipment of high-tech goodies for Mac’s operations; no one’s motives or position in this little crime empire is ever quite clear.

It’s unthinkable that the man hasn’t been caught before, or that Gin believes it’s safe to call her boss from the island’s only pay phone, but such fun as there is on tap here is in the training and techniques of good old-fashioned heisting. They rappel down buildings using that thing from Mission Impossible; they time and coordinate every move like the international gang in Ronin; they practice like athletes as seen in Zeta-Jones’ previous action flick, The Mask of Zorro. Only the last job abandons all the interesting break-in finesse to revel in the sacred trinity of contemporary heist movies: undercover work at a swanky party, high-wire action full of dizzying close calls, and—yawn—computer fiddling.

Amiel doesn’t attempt to fill in the script’s holes; he films the story with an unquestioning straightforwardness that would be touching if it weren’t so irritating. Perhaps it’s fear of further confusing the audience that forces him into putting his energies toward showing us only stuff he’s sure of without pumping up the suspense or the art value. In the film’s last scene, in which everyone shows up to sort out just whom they’re working for and what’s in store for the future, the director relaxes, painting in a glorious palette of creamy ivory tones as the raffish duo converses in a Malaysian train station designed with their outfits in mind. The use of space, color, and light is worthy of Bertolucci, who isn’t even worthy of his own fraught landscapes anymore. But it’s in service of a story that’s middling at best, neither action-packed enough for Matrix fans (well, what is?) nor clever enough for spycraft aficionados. Aside from Zeta-Jones’ radiant presence, Entrapment is notable only for its cathartic morality: Crime is festive, lucrative, and excellent exercise for both the rear end and the mind. Where do I sign up? CP