The Thomas Crown Affair

on August 06, 1999 by Annlee Ellingson
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   While updating it for the '90s, director John McTiernan ("Die Hard") has infused "The Thomas Crown Affair" with the same style that distinguished the 1968 Steve McQueen-Faye Dunaway (here seen in a cameo) original.
   Thomas Crown (Pierce Brosnan) is still a wealthy businessman bored with the monotony of crafty deals and hostile takeovers, but his passtime is art theft, not bank robbery. Devising an elaborate distraction, he single-handedly lifts a $100-million Monet off a museum wall and walks out the front door with it. He's the last person the police suspect, as he voluntarily identifies the very men he hired to fail at what he pulled off and donates a replacement painting from his personal collection to lessen the museum's loss.
   Insurance investigator Catherine Banning (the stunning Rene Russo) is on to Crown, however, and promptly informs him that he's on the top of her list of suspects over objections from police detective Michael McCann (Denis Leary). What follows is an erotic game of cat and mouse, in which the two fiercely independent players find they're falling for each other as they avoid falling in their respective traps.
   This picture oozes glamour, from Catherine's European duds (apparently you have to be from across the pond to be exotic) to McTiernan's busy camerawork. Russo still looks fantastic at middle age, done up in the hair and makeup that first made her a star as a fashion model, and it's such a relief to finally see a pair of mature adults sizzle onscreen.
   McTiernan's camerawork in particular, though, gives the film the style to pull off what could have been just another remake. Extreme long shots and close-ups, elaborate tracking shots through busy traffic and crowded galleries, overhead shots, pans and the clever use of windows make the pic visually interesting and the heist scenes applause-worthy (which the preview audience did), while a hip soundtrack (including the original's theme song "The Windmills of Your Mind") makes even a boat crash operatic.
   "Thomas Crown" '99 does slightly but significantly alter the ending, but it's difficult to decide whether it's a crime or just more romantic. Starring Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo and Denis Leary. Directed by John McTiernan. Written by Leslie Dixon and Kurt Wimmer. Produced by Brosnan and Beau St. Clair. An MGM release. Thriller. Rated R for sexuality and language. Running time: 114 minutes
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