What if James Bond reached retirement age with Her Majesty's Secret Service and found himself facing a pension with no license to kill? Could he content himself with golf and coupon clipping?
Or, with his years of derring-do and spy skills, might he be happier as, say, a jewel thief?
Watching Sean Connery, the original and best Bond, play an international master thief in "Entrapment," such a future scenario becomes not only plausible but downright likely.
Connery still carries himself like an athlete, growls with the same gutteral Scots rasp, and sports a salt-and-pepper face any Hemingway wannabe would die for. And for viewers, seeing him plan and execute the heist of a priceless ancient Chinese mask from a British castle is darn near the same experience as watching 007 slip past SMERSH to nick that last secret code to save the world.
There's even more déjà vu with wide-eyed Catherine Zeta-Jones (late of "Mask of Zorro") slinking about as his brainy, acrobatic accomplice. She'd have made a marvelous Bond babe, except that in "Entrapment" she may or may not be out to trap Bond, er, Connery, in flagrante delicto.
Jones goes along on the mask theft in order to draw Connery into a complicated Asian bank job. Nothing goes as planned, natch, but we get a full screenful of beautiful actors dangling, darting and dashing through danger after danger. Bond would be proud.
This caper flick carries about as much weight as the later Bonds as well -- active and noisy, but not particularly memorable. In its often-telegraphed deceptions, "Entrapment" seems at times to unfold by the numbers: Spy Films 101 come to life.
Writers Ron Bass ("Rain Man") and William Broyles ("Apollo 13") don't have much experience with this sort of thing, but their script echoes so many 1950s and '60s heist movies that it could have cast Audrey Hepburn (think "How to Steal a Million") and Cary Grant (think "To Catch a Thief") without changing a word.
As spiritlessly directed by Jon Amiel ("Sommersby," "Copycat"), it also bears some resemblance to a second-rate jewel-thief contender, Robert Wagner's Alexander Mundy (and Fred Astaire as his dad) of TV's "It Takes a Thief." "Entrapment" updates the gadgetry to present-day, but keeps the second bananas (Will Patton as an insurance exec; Ving Rhames as provocateur) in roles so traditional they seem like '50s wives.
But the truth is that we all love high-tech hijinks, and we all root for the aspiring artist (even if he's a thief) to embarrass the Establishment. Even when there's almost nothing original going on, we can still sink gratefully into a world where bolts don't rust shut, trap doors open silently and tiny explosive charges do exactly what they should. Connery, 70, playing 60, looks smashing enough that it's no stretch that 20-something Zeta-Jones could fall for him. And if you like this genre, you'll love them both.