You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Thomas Crown Affair

The characters in "The Thomas Crown Affair" are cool -- too cool, in fact, for the film to develop much of a pulse. This redo of Norman Jewison's 1968 hit is an ultrasleek thriller that attempts to justify its existence by shifting the focus from the caper elements to the emotional factors that compel two adversaries to risk a romantic entanglement.

Thomas Crown - Pierce Brosnan Catherine Banning - Rene Russo Det. Michael McCann - Denis Leary Andrew Wallace - Ben Gazzara Det. Paretti - Frankie Faison John Reynolds - Fritz Weaver Golchan - Charles Keating Knutzhorn - Mark Margolis The Psychiatrist - Faye Dunaway

The characters in “The Thomas Crown Affair” are cool — too cool, in fact, for the film to develop much of a pulse. This redo of Norman Jewison’s 1968 Steve McQueen-Faye Dunaway hit is an ultrasleek and slick thriller that attempts to justify its existence by shifting the focus from the caper elements to the psychological and emotional factors that compel two hard-shelled professional adversaries to risk a romantic entanglement. Result is lush hot-weather entertainment that should generate solid late-summer B.O. with mostly older auds, although alert viewers may sense that they’ve recently seen much the same scenario played out in “Entrapment.”

While it still retains a certain allure due mainly to the adept casting of the innately rebellious McQueen in the role of a Boston millionaire and gentleman thief, few popular films from the late ’60s seem more dated and mannered today than the original “Thomas Crown,” with its hokey split-screen storytelling and high-gloss polish that has since faded to reveal the tinniness of what’s inside. A considerable overhaul was definitely in order if Alan R. Trustman’s original script was going to be made to fit the ’90s.

In an unusual move to this end, Leslie Dixon was hired to write the personal scenes, while Kurt Wimmer was engaged specifically to pen the heist sequences. Combo works seamlessly, with the intimate story, such as it is, framing the action and maintaining the upper hand.

Signaling the revised orientation at the outset, precredits teaser has the handsome, richer-than-rich playboy tycoon Thomas Crown (Pierce Brosnan) nonchalantly revealing his Achilles’ heel to his shrink, played in a self-reflexive homage by Dunaway. Crown is a self-made man who’s got it all but can never imagine settling down with one woman because he simply can’t open himself up enough to trust anyone; what works for him in business is anathema to deep personal involvement.

This time out, risk-loving title character pulls not a bank job but the rather extraordinary theft of a $100 million Monet from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art virtually in front of the eyes of security personnel. Along with Detective Michael McCann (Denis Leary), insurance company investigator Catherine Banning (Rene Russo) is positive that Crown is the culprit, and the sultry, no-nonsense femme has no qualms about using any means necessary, including getting horizontal, to land her prey.

Like her elegant foe, Catherine is quite a hard case; she’s undoubtedly snared many men in this same manner over the years, and is perhaps both proud and weary of the fact that she can no longer find one who is her equal. Both Crown and Catherine suspect they might have met their match in the other, and the only sliver of substance served up here is the figurative chess game (a metaphor famously made literal in the original film) between the two, in which the question of who will outfox the other becomes dependent — thanks to their growing personal involvement — upon who will finally “weaken” emotionally and trust the other.

The twists and turns of their relationship are not without interest, especially because Russo takes seriously her rare opportunity at a part more substantial than her usual superstar pairings; when one of them finally lets down well-built defenses and is the victim of turned tables, the result is momentarily affecting. But not for long, as contempo Hollywood has trouble abiding the note of ambiguity and irony that even a successful mainstream production such as the original “Thomas Crown” had no trouble concluding upon 31 years ago.

The impulse to take the characters deeper seems to have been there, but it’s been nipped in the bud; despite all the time they spend together, hanging out at Crown’s art-festooned Manhattan townhouse or on a quickie vacation to Martinique, they devote all their time to keeping up their guards and taking off their clothes. Lack of detailed characterization is hardly a fatal flaw in this sort of genre piece, but the absence is especially noticeable in light of the story’s heightened attention to the nuances of the central romance.

The art removal (and replacement) sequences at the Met are cleverly and engagingly handled under John McTiernan’s well-tooled direction, and production has been lavished with extravagant sets and locations that welcome the audience into a fantasy world of untold luxury and wealth, which lenser Tom Priestley shows off to the desired effect. The stars look mighty good both in and out of Kate Harrington’s costumes, and their au naturel couplings, while stylized, generate a sense of rambunctiousness.

Taunting, teasing and challenging as a worldly woman who sees a possible chance to change her ways, Russo rolls up her sleeves for this part and comes off very well. Brosnan’s Thomas Crown is carved out of ice, and, unfortunately, thesp’s charisma is insufficient to melt it much. The cold calculation of this suave, ruthless operator is efficiently projected, but any inner desire to change seems a ruse or self-deception. In the only supporting role of consequence, Leary is mostly called upon to register exasperation at Catherine’s greater success rate at getting the goods on their mutual foe.

Bill Conti’s score, while trying for something different, ends up jarringly eclectic. The original’s Oscar-winning tune, “The Windmills of Your Mind,” by Michel Legrand, Marilyn Bergman and Alan Bergman, is heard in several versions.

Popular on Variety

The Thomas Crown Affair

Production: An MGM release of an Irish DreamTime production. Produced by Pierce Brosnan, Beau St. Clair. Executive producer, Michael Tadross. Co-producer, Roger Paradiso. Directed by John McTiernan. Screenplay, Leslie Dixon, Kurt Wimmer; story, Alan R. Trustman.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor, Deluxe prints; Panavision widescreen), Tom Priestley; editor, John Wright; music, Bill Conti; production designer, Bruno Rubeo; art director, Dennis Bradford; set decorator, Leslie Rollins; costume designer, Kate Harrington; sound (DTS/Dolby Digital/SDDS), Tom Nelson; supervising sound editor, George Watters II; visual effects/second unit director and camera, John Sullivan; visual effects, Pixel Magic; associate producer/assistant director, Bruce G. Mori-arty; casting, Pat McCorkle. Reviewed at MGM screening room, Santa Monica, July 16, 1999. MPAA Rating: R. Run-ning time: 111 MIN.

With: Thomas Crown - Pierce Brosnan Catherine Banning - Rene Russo Det. Michael McCann - Denis Leary Andrew Wallace - Ben Gazzara Det. Paretti - Frankie Faison John Reynolds - Fritz Weaver Golchan - Charles Keating Knutzhorn - Mark Margolis The Psychiatrist - Faye Dunaway

More Film

  • 'Talking About Trees' Helmer Suhaib Gasmelbari

    'Talking About Trees' Director Suhaib Gasmelbari Receives Variety MENA Award

    Suhaib Gasmelbari, whose Sudanese documentary “Talking About Trees” premiered in the Berlinale’s Panorama section, received the Variety Middle East and North Africa Region Talent Award Saturday at the El Gouna Film Festival in Egypt from festival director Intishal Al Timimi. Variety critic Jay Weissberg, who selected the honoree, said that it is not usual that [...]

  • Josefina-Molina

    Josefina Molina: Still Battling After All These Years

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — She isn’t done yet. The battling character of Josefina Molina, winner of Spain’s 2019 National Cinematography Prize, was glimpsed in her acceptance speech at the San Sebastian Festival on Saturday. She used part to thank those who had given crucial help, such as, among women, editors Nieves Martin (1981’s “Función de Noche,” [...]

  • Suro

    Lastor, ‘The Endless Trench’s’ Irusoin, Malmo Team for Mikel Gurrea’s ‘Suro’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    SAN SEBASTIAN – Barcelona-based Lastor Media and Malmo Pictures have teamed with San Sebastian’s Irusoin to produce “Suro” (The Cork), the feature debut of Mikel Gurrea and a product of San Sebastian’s Ikusmira Berriak program. The film stars Laia Costa, who broke through with Sebastian Schipper’s “Victoria” and also serves as executive producer, and Pol López [...]

  • Ane

    Madrid’s ECAM Incubator Develops Terrorism Drama 'Ane'

    SAN SEBASTIAN — For the second year in a row, the ECAM Madrid Film School has paired a number of up-and-coming filmmakers with various industry veterans for an Incubator program part of the school broader development arm called The Screen. For its initial edition in 2018, this Incubator selected five feature projects, putting the selected [...]

  • Roma Cinematography

    'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' and 'Roma' Win LMGI Awards for Motion Pictures

    Two major 2018 releases – actioner “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and critics’ darling “Roma” – were honored for film location work by the Location Managers Guild International at a ceremony this evening at the Eli & Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The 6th Annual LMGI Awards also recognized “Chernobyl” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” [...]

  • Soho House

    Soho House Lands In Downtown Los Angeles

    Warner Music, Spotify and Lyft are poised to welcome a new neighbor to downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District with Soho Warehouse, the third California outpost of the Hollywood-loved members-only club — and the largest North American opening to date. Hot on the heels of the Soho House Hong Kong debut earlier this summer, the private [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content