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Review: 'Thomas Crown Affair' boasts sex, flair and fluff

August 10, 1999
Web posted at: 2:43 p.m. EDT (1843 GMT)

By Reviewer Paul Tatara

(CNN) -- It's perfectly apt and somehow not enough to call John McTiernan's remake of "The Thomas Crown Affair" a piece of fluff. The movie is a veritable motherload of Twinkie filling with no actual Twinkie surrounding it.

Though the TV ads imply that we're getting a cat-and-mouse game between a thieving billionaire and the sexy female insurance investigator who's trying to find a painting he's stolen, McTiernan tires quickly of the investigation and spends most of the movie simply showing off the "stuff" (i.e. all the fancy boats, cars, airplanes, suits, cufflinks, and Caribbean hideaways that you'd buy if only you were loaded).

Theatrical preview for "The Thomas Crown Affair"
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Brosnan, of course, plays the billionaire, Thomas Crown (a role that was originated by Steve McQueen back in 1968). Crown is one suave dude, and the script (by Alan Trustman, Leslie Dixon, and Kurt Wimmer) is not about to let you forget it. Everything ol' Tom does is managed with an immaculate sense of style and grace that would make smooth peanut butter envious.

Brosnan's Crown has it all

Crown's cool expression (Brosnan always looks like the kind of guy who theoretically reads "Playboy") is matched only by his cool swagger, cool bank account, and cool underarms. If he needs a cell phone in the middle of a cow pasture, he's got one. If he's dancing with a young woman, you can bet she's a Ferrari-like model in a slinky designer gown. If he pops into a five-star restaurant without making a reservation, he still gets the best table in the joint.

He's a great lover. He has impeccable taste in art. His business acumen is enough to swat away high-powered competitors with the mere flick of a lawyer. Oh -- and he's a thrill-seeker! He wrecks a $100,000 sailboat just for the fun of it! He likes to pilot his expensive glider reeaal low over the treetops, and does dangerous loop-de-loops without blinking an eye!

You get the idea. I'm surprised he didn't chug a bottle of champagne and belch out the complete works of Goethe. The only sequence with any tension to it -- and there's not much then, either -- is the ludicrous opening, during which Tom makes off with a Monet from the Metropolitan Museum of Art while some dim-witted thieves that he set up are being apprehended by the guards. Of course, he manages the whole thing without breaking a sweat. Or his stride.

Then, when he stashes the booty in his multi-million dollar brownstone, he grins to himself over how unbelievably, profoundly, supremely cool and with-it he is. You'd think Robin Leach directed the movie.

Redundant sexuality

Russo's character, Catherine Banning, is almost as absurd, but she scores bonus points for being Rene Russo. Russo can't buy a decent movie, but carries herself with such guileless ease she almost dares you not to like her.

For some reason, she's also suddenly decided to bare all on-camera, and does so a couple of times in "The Thomas Crown Affair." This is an odd development, but, at the very least, it's nice to see a movie that has no qualms about showing off the sexual charisma of a woman in her 40s. It just seems redundant; Russo's pretty darn sexually charismatic fully clothed.

Once she tells him that she knows he's the one who nabbed the painting, Banning and Crown flirt endlessly; the thief is turned on by the idea of this hotty trying to catch him. We're supposed to be overcome with lecherous chuckling because the investigator and the criminal want to bed each other, but the wry come-ons and various states of gorgeous undress just get silly after awhile.

Brosnan and Russo do virtually nothing but sashay around trying to out-sophisticate each other. It's like you're watching two models slap each other with fashion magazines. (They also perform the stupid movie mambo by choosing to have sex on top of hardwood furniture when there's a bed nearby.)


The only good thing about all of this is that, for once, our fond memories of a classic movie aren't being trampled by the re-make. The original film was just as empty as this one is, albeit with Steve McQueen (now he's cool) wearing the greatest clothes in the history of he-man kind. (Faye Dunaway, who had Russo's role the first time around, makes a cameo in this one.)

If a movie's designed to rise or fall on the overwhelming presence of its lead actor, something more than a slightly built poser like Brosnan is required. There's no doubt he's handsome enough, but you feel like you could pick him up and punt him across the room. Swing your foot at McQueen and he'd punch your lights out ... right after removing his very costly diamond ring.

"The Thomas Crown Affair" is for adults, but only because of Renee Russo in the buff and all that sex. Denis Leary has a do-nothing role as one of the investigators, but he keeps the cursing to a minimum. GREAT MARKETING IDEA THAT I WILL ACCEPT MONEY FOR: "Thomas Crown Affair" pleated toilet paper! Rated R. 111 minutes.

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Official 'The Thomas Crown Affair' site
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