The Thomas Crown Affair

Directed by John McTiernan
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo, Denis Leary, Faye Dunaway.
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality and language.

Review by Matt Heffernan
August 6, 1999

1999 may be remembered in film history as the year James Bond became an art thief. Sean Connery started it with Entrapment, and now Pierce Brosnan re-creates the title role in The Thomas Crown Affair, which was originally played by Steve McQueen in 1968.

Thomas Crown is a wealthy businessman who runs a firm that basically buys up smaller companies. His days are spent wheeling and dealing with other tycoons, then strolling through the Metropolitan Museum of Art to gaze at the paintings of Van Gogh and Monet. He likes Monet so much that he decides to take his seminal work home with him, in a very clever scheme.

As in Entrapment, the party most interested in retrieving the picture is the insurance company. Yet another beautiful woman is sent to investigate; Catherine Banning (Rene Russo) is out to get her man. She figures out pretty quickly that Thomas was the culprit, and she goes about getting her information. She actually gets him to take her out on a date, which she uses as an attempt to get the painting back. She's not quite successful, but that doesn't stop these crazy kids from staying together.

Thomas and Cathy spend most of the film in an intricate dance. Romance develops, and they both seem to be straying from their agendas. A lot of this play between them isn't quite credible, and their motivations are a constant mystery. Thank God for Denis Leary, who actually notices how ridiculous the situation often is. Playing NYPD Detective Michael McCann, he is the only source of reason. As in The Ref, he is forced to be witness to a very strange couple, and reacts in the same way as the audience.

This is a pretty good film, and the little oddities can be overlooked when the leads look this good together. Faye Dunaway (who starred in the original), makes a recurring cameo as Thomas's psychotherapist. She also helps to ground the plot in a little more reality. I only had to raise my hands in disbelief a few times, but I eventually surrendered myself to the film's charms.

John McTiernan needs a hit with this one, and he might get it. The next James Bond installment comes out later this year, and fans of the series may need a little Pierce Brosnan fix before then. McTiernan's last few films were disappointing, but he's giving it three tries this year. He actually has two more films coming out in 1999, both of them based on Michael Crichton novels: The 13th Warrior and Airframe. He should learn, though, that you can't make a Crichton novel into a hit, unless there are dinosaurs.

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The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)

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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan