DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, THE (director: John McTiernan; screenwriters: Leslie Dixon/Kurt Wimmer/story by Alan R. Trustman; cinematographer: Tom Priestley; editor: John Wright; cast: Pierce Brosnan (Thomas Crown), Rene Russo (Catherine Banning), Denis Leary (Michael McCann), Ben Gazzara (Andrew Wallace), Esther Canadas (Mystery Woman), Frankie Faison (Paretti), Fritz Weaver (John Reynolds), Charles Keating (Golchan), Mark Margolis (Knutzhorn), Faye Dunaway (Psychiatrist); Runtime: 110; MGM; 1999)

 
"In many ways it's a better overall film than the older one, but retains the same trashy disposable entertainment value. No one will mistake this middle brow venture for an art film."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Updated from the '60s Steve McQueen version, remade with a fresher theme that is fit for the '90s. The caper is also more fun to watch, has much more splash to its story line, and is better looking than the original. In many ways it's a better overall film than the older one, but retains the same trashy disposable entertainment value. No one will mistake this middlebrow venture for an art film.

This version features an art heist instead of one in a bank.

The caper is done in a sophisticated manner by an elegant businessman of a giant financial empire, his motives are derived from his arrogance. Supposedly, the billionaire is missing two things in his life: a Monet and a wife. The question becomes which one will he next acquire.

The location has been switched from Boston to New York City and the main action takes place in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which was actually the New York Public Library (the Met frowned on the idea of having a film showing its security system being penetrated). As an added connection to the older version Faye Dunaway, who played Rene Russo's part as the insurance investigator, Catherine Banning, in the original, now plays the psychiatrist to Thomas Crown (Pierce Brosnan).

The film looked so glossy and flew by at such an easygoing pace. It was an enjoyable guilty pleasure, a delicious Hollywood romp for those looking for escapism and a romance that portends to be steamy and intimate; but, is really glib and only superficially satisfying. It's more like a James Bond film in its banal idea of what love and adventure is, as the film rolls out the big-ticket items to impress the viewer. It shows the things an extremely wealthy man might be into doing such as; flying his own private airplane, owning a villa on a tropical island, dating beautiful women, wearing expensive designer clothes (Pierce can't wear a tux, his contract with the James Bond people stipulates he can only be properly dressed in a tux in the Bond pics), dining at upscale restaurants, acquiring an expensive art collection, and playing golf games where there are wagers of a $100,000 a shot. There is no end to the bounty of materialism in this film.

The bold robbery of the museum is done with style as Eastern European thieves are smuggled into the museum in a Trojan Horse, but are repelled when they unknowingly are double-crossed by Thomas Crown. Somehow the Monet worth $100 million gets stolen, anyhow. The police, led by detective Michael McCann (Leary), are clueless, but along comes the stylishly dressed insurance investigator, Catherine (Renee), who immediately shows the police that she is smarter than they are and puts them on the trail of Thomas Crown. He's someone thought to be above reproach. All they need is to get the proof he did it.

In the closing scene Crown steals another valuable picture hanging near the Monet for Catherine's sake, but he also puts the Monet back in its place in the museum. It was an ingenious scene, where many impersonators of a Magritte painting who are dressed in imitation of the picture as inconspicuous businessmen in dark suits and bowler hats, carrying briefcases, make it difficult for the police to keep tabs on them all. In the meantime, Thomas has enough time to outfox the police trap and accomplish his misdeed.

The film is more about the chess game of love and trust between the handsome thief and the beauty who, at first, wants only to catch him and get her five percent reward. The big question becomes which will each choose, stolen art or questionable love. The detective is the good guy who falls for the good looking dame but is not in the high roller category to pull her in. Renee is the one who gets angry that she has actually fallen in love with the dapper playboy, not sure if he really loves her and will just break her heart. Pierce is the picture of coolness, not giving away his moves until the game is over.

It's a fantasy film fantasizing how good it would be to have so much money that you can do anything you wanted. The emptiness of those pleasures rival the film's empty look at romance and adventure, and should give one pause to think how disappointing it sometimes might be to get what one wishes for. This is an easy film to take it as it is! It is a well-crafted star vehicle, whose stars have a good chemistry together, and there is a bonus--it comes with gorgeous location shots and lots of plot twists.

REVIEWED ON 9/8/2000     GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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