The Thomas Crown Affair is a caper movie — the kind of light crime drama where sophisticated, clever thieves try to pull off the perfect crime. As capers go, it’s smart and well-oiled. The crime story works wonderfully. The movie only fails when the plot wanders, and unfortunately, at the end.
This remake of the 1968 movie stars Pierce Brosnan as Thomas Crown: billionaire, hard-core businessman and art-lover. Rene Russo plays Catherine, an insurance investigator hired to look into the theft of a Monet painting from a New York art museum. Catherine quickly deduces that Crown is the thief. Now she just needs some evidence.
The Thomas Crown Affair, 1968, Norman Jewison.
Entrapment, 1999, John Amiel, another recent caper movie about an insurance investigator and a crook.
Did You Notice?
Crown knows how to keep clean during the investigation, which draws it out longer. Each time they meet, they fall deeper in love. The protracted investigation becomes a coy game of power, sex, trust, leverage and love.
Catherine collaborates with Michael (Denis Leary), the NYPD detective assigned to the case. Michael’s law-abiding infatuation throws Catherine’s options into clear contrast. She can choose a rich, handsome, mature crook or a poor, plain, childish cop.
Catherine and Thomas do make love, and their scenes are pretty steamy. Both leads are good-looking, mature adults. It was nice to see two well-matched minds going at each other with their bodies. It draws attention to how adolescent and male-centric movie sex tends to be.
But good looks and chemistry aside, neither Brosnan nor Russo gives an outstanding performance. Brosnan manages to be different from 007 only in subtle ways. Russo was better, but she played her part a little too broadly.
For most of the movie, the remake improves on the original. The capers are more elaborate and more smoothly portrayed. The temptations of wealth are more real. Even the song Windmills of Your Mind is integrated better. The whole picture just seems to work better than the first movie.
Until the end.
I won’t give it away, but if you’re not sure, skip the next paragraph.
The first movie ended in a certain way. It could have just as easily ended one other way. The new version of the film finds a third way which is a little too pat. It doesn’t entirely compromise the characters’ integrity or the plot’s believability, but it does stretch them both too far.
But those problems aren’t all that big and shouldn’t detract from enjoying the film. The interactions between the main characters are well-thought-out and the intricate set-ups for the crimes, following the tradition of all good caper movies, are fun to watch.