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The Thomas Crown Affair

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Thomas Crown Affair

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo
Director: John McTiernan
Rated: R
RunTime: 113 Minutes
Release Date: August 1999
Genres: Action, Thriller

*Also starring: Dennis Leary, Faye Dunaway

Review by Greg King
3½ stars out of 4

This stylish, sexy remake of The Thomas Crown Affair is something of a pet project for star Pierce Brosnan, who also produced the film. The 1968 original was a largely unremarkable movie, made more memorable by the suave and cool Steve McQueen at his charismatic best, and director Norman Jewison's then revolutionary use of split-screen techniques during a climactic heist scene. This slick caper thriller is a fairly conventional film from director John McTiernan (the original Die Hard, Predator, etc), who has previously displayed an affinity for cinematic pyrotechnics and spectacular action sequences. McTiernan retains enough familiar elements to satisfy older audiences who remember the original, while cleverly updating the story for the more cynical and technologically advanced '90's.

There are some sly nods to the original, especially through the token presence of Faye Dunaway, wasted in a largely irrelevant role as Crown's psychiatrist, and a bland reprise of the Oscar winning song Windmills Of My Mind. However, McTiernan suffuses this new version with enough new touches to make it seem fresh for audiences unfamiliar with the original.

In between Bond assignments, Brosnan comfortably steps into McQueen's shoes as Thomas Crown, the rich but bored millionaire who steals for kicks. In the 1968 original, Crown robbed banks, but here he steals paintings. When a priceless Monet is lifted from an art gallery during an elaborately staged but bungled robbery, beautiful and resourceful female insurance investigator Catherine Banning (Rene Russo in the Faye Dunaway role) suspects Crown. She doggedly pursues Crown and gets up close and personal with him in the hopes of trapping him. The intriguing cat and mouse game between Crown and Banning adds to the suspense of the film.

McTiernan and script writers Leslie Dixon (Outrageous Fortune, etc) and Kurt Wimmer stick to the tried and true formula of similar thrillers (To Catch A Thief, the recent Entrapment, etc), placing the tempestuous relationship between the two protagonists at the centre of the film. This new version of The Thomas Crown Affair has a more sentimental outlook than the original.

The film also has a deliberately raunchy edge, with generous dollops of sex and nudity. There is an obvious sexual chemistry between the two stars, and McTiernan is clever enough to exploit this to enhance a plot that otherwise looks rather tired and formulaic. The two stars definitely prove that there is life after forty!

Reunited with his Nomads director, Brosnan brings charm, sex appeal and a dangerous edge to his engaging performance as the suave thief. Russo (the Lethal Weapon series, etc) stamps her sexy and seductive presence on her role, and she fairly sizzles across the screen.

Denis Leary has a droll and sarcastic presence as the beleaguered New York detective assigned to the case, and adds some humour to proceedings.

This sophisticated thriller is beautifully staged and seductively photographed by Tom Priestley.

Copyright 2000 Greg King

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