The Thomas Crown Affair
Once in a while Hollywood does get it right. "The Thomas Crown Affair" shows that Hollywood can even get it right twice. It's a remake of the delicious 1968 Steve McQueen-Faye Dunaway cat-and-mouse game in which he was an elegant bank robber and she the investigator. Here he -- Pierce Brosnan -- is Thomas Crown, the billionaire conglomerate boss who has a penchant for stealing Impressionist art, and she -- Rene Russo -- is Catherine Banning, the insurance investigator trying to locate the goods. To complete the references, Faye Dunaway plays Brosnan's psychiatrist, and we even hear a good deal of the song "Windmills of your Mind," which was made famous in the original film. However, though the song is truly sappy, it doesn't detract much from this film, which also features a bit of Kurt Weill as well.
The story begins as a large sculpture, a Greek horse, is delivered to the Metropolitan Museum; and like an earlier one it too is not quite what it seems. One thing leads to another, and a Monet is missing. Russo has been called in to work with the New York City detective Michael McCann (Denis Leary), and suspicion quickly falls on Crown.
Russo, who has never been sexier, plays both with and against that sexuality. She decides that the best way to recover the painting is to come on to Brosnan. She does, and the affair is steamy. But when we expect the erotic she gives us intellect, and when we expect a brilliant deduction she gives us sex. It's a nice switch that moves this film to a higher level, taking advantage of an excellent script by Peter Doyle, who adapted the original, and Leslie Dixon and Kurt Wimmer, who updated it.
The director is John McTiernan ("Die Hard," "The Last Action Hero," "The Hunt for Red October") and here he shows a previously unknown ability to find wit inside action and sex. His shots and editing too are scrumptious, with one particularly brilliant sequence showing the steel fire doors closing in front of portraits at the museum. Click! A face disappears behind the doors. Click! Another face disappears. Click! And another. And McTiernan doesn't waste our time or his with chase sequences. Though there's plenty of action, it never seems forced or without motivation.
If there's a weakness here it lies in Brosnan, who is a one-note actor still playing his 007 role. What should be the quiet arrogance of a Rupert Murdoch, say, becomes a calm passivity that undercuts our expectations of Crown's true flair. He averts disaster only by means of that fine British accent and good looks, and no harm is done. In any case, this is a marvelous entertainment for a summer with too little to recommend it.