The Thomas Crown Affair

Originally written August 22, 1999

Thomas Crown is a Stylish and Sexy Affair

Why do you go to movies? Is it to laugh? To cry? To be moved? To learn? Or is it to step into another world, to imagine what it would be like to live another type of life, to wonder what it would be like to be in extreme danger or to be extremely powerful or extremely beautiful or extremely rich? It may be a combination of all of these. You may have never really thought about it. For me, the movies I love the most are the ones which show me a life that I will never have and so I can feel, if it’s only for a couple of hours, that I have lived it. Or that I could have lived it.

That’s why I love the James Bond movies so much. That’s why I love great action movies with great heroes like Die Hard, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Air Force One. That’s why I love great love stories like Sleepless in Seattle and Love Affair. And that’s truly why I love great comedies like L.A. Story and Tootsie. I could and would never be that courageous, that heroic, that suave, that lucky or that witty in my lifetime. But these films make me feel a part of that world, whatever world it may be, and, for a little while, I feel bigger. Not necessarily better, but I feel bigger than I am. It expands my mind, expands my own horizons, and inspires me to dream just a little bigger and live just a little more. If you call me a sucker, so be it. But this is why I love movies.

And this is why I loved The Thomas Crown Affair.

The Thomas Crown Affair is a remake of the 1968 Norman Jewison film starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. I didn’t see the original, and I’m happy I didn’t. I’m afraid it would alter my opinion of the remake. The 1999 version, directed by John McTiernan and starring Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo (with a special appearance by Dunaway) is stylish, sexy and pure fun.

Brosnan plays Thomas Crown, a millionaire who, in his spare time, plots major heists of valuable pieces of artwork. Rene Russo plays Catherine, an insurance investigator hired to track down the thief of a recently nabbed painting. While the police are still floundering over crime scene evidence, Catherine hones in on Crown and begins her own personal investigation of the supercool gentleman-thief.

The chemistry between Brosnan and Russo is unmistakable. I will be the first to admit that I have never liked Russo before, in fact she was one of the actresses I most dreaded seeing on screen. But her performance in this film is impressive. She is every bit Brosnan’s equal, which is not an easy task. And it’s about time we see a love story where the man and woman involved are actually in the same age range! Russo looks every bit her over-40 age and she looks great!

The chemistry is the spark that ignites the film, but it is the story and screenplay which keep it burning. The cat-and-mouse game that the two leads play is so much fun to watch that I didn’t want it to end. And it keeps you guessing, right up until the end, a rarity these days. McTiernan’s direction is so fluid and fast-paced you’ll not once look at your watch. And you want sexy? Don’t despair, Pierce Brosnan fans, The Thomas Crown Affair does not disappoint. It will certainly feed your hunger until November when the next Bond movie is released.

It isn’t such a stretch to be reminded of James Bond while watching Mr. Crown as he coolly navigates through his world. It’s almost as if Brosnan, who also co-produced The Thomas Crown Affair, intended to capitalize on his moment in the sun and play to the Bond mystique which currently envelopes him. Whatever it is, it works. The world created here, much like the Bond worlds, is larger-than-life, and the characters who inhabit it are stunning. I had so much fun watching these well-dressed, well-mannered, sexy, smart people try to out-fox each other. What more could you really ask for in a film?

Sure, there are elements you must overlook. Russo’s character deciphers evidence just a little too easily, and pieces fall into place just a little too smoothly. The character of the head of the police investigation, played by Denis Leary, is too Hollywood-textbook and gets assigned the unenviable task of serving as the reality check in this otherwise fantastical tale. Who wants reality? And Faye Dunaway’s appearance in the film is forced and far too posed and only detracts from the film. But these flaws are easy to overlook. In a film like this, the only way to enjoy it is to buy a ticket for the whole ride, check reality at the door and overlook the glitches in common logic. Because, despite the minor flaws, it is still well worth it.

The Thomas Crown Affair is a rare sight to see in these hot summer months: an adult movie. If you’re tired of cheesy date movies, shoot-em-up action flicks, scare-you-senseless horror films and insult-your-intelligence teenage tales, this is your movie. It will stimulate your mind, it will stimulate your passions, but, most of all, it will stimulate your love of movies. In case you’d forgotten what that was.

My rating: **** worth paying full price