Main cast: Pierce Brosnan (Thomas Crown), Rene Russo (Catherine Banning), Denis Leary (Michael McMann), and Ben Gazarra (Andrew Wallace)
Director: John McTiernan
I haven’t seen the original 1968 version – I know, philistine – so as usual, it’s a clean slate for me when I watch this movie. And I must say it is wonderful, simply wonderful!
Thomas Crown is a man suffering from ennui. He has everything and anything. With too much time and money, he spends his free time robbing art galleries. One day he robbed a Monet that happens to be insured by a company that hires Catherine Banning as a bounty hunter. Catherine suspects Thomas, and the chase in on.
Thomas has money and charm at his disposal, while Catherine has see-thru dresses at her arsenal. Both are doomed to fall in love.
Now, regardless of anything, Thomas Crown can be a fascinating character. A man who suffers from boredom, and has all at his disposal to make his life interesting, he can be a very dangerous man. As it is, he channels his ennui into daring-do acts that sometimes verge on being suicidal. It is only fair that he is attracted to the notion of baiting and seducing the woman who has made clear from the start that she is out to get him. However, Pierce Brosnan, while looking wonderfully suave and debonair, lacks the charisma to carry Thomas Crown off. His presence is lightweight and I never get the feel of any intensity or manic obsession that he should be having for Catherine.
But Rene Russo is perfect as Catherine. She plays Catherine with the air of a temptress well aware of her allure and not above exploiting it for her own betterment. She is the true counterpart for Thomas Crown – the scene where she watches Thomas flirt with disaster as the man destroys a 10 million dollar yacht just for the heck of it, her eyes wide with breathless excitement – this woman is Thomas’s ideal partner in his mad race for something – anything – to make life more interesting.
Oh yes, Thomas and Catherine have chemistry. Lots of it. Their trading of barbs and innuendos simply sizzles, and when it comes to the love scene, ooh-la-la. Hand me the iced lemonade, somebody. It helps also that the characterization is well-done. Catherine is a complicated character torn between duty and temptation, and watching her turn into a mere woman as she tries to sort out lies from truths is wonderful. Likewise, I love the scene where Thomas drives her to jealousy with photographs of his rendezvous with a supposed mistress. “How am I to know if you’re here because of me or the Monet?” he pleads. How romantic – if Pierce Brosnan has shown some facial expressions more suited for this heartfelt plea.
That’s the quibble I have with The Thomas Crown Affair – Pierce Brosnan doesn’t even try to show any facial expressions other than smirking. It’s left to Rene Russo to carry the emotional weight, a task that she fortunately excels in. Her vividly expressive eyes as she tries to sort out her increasingly complicated life reveals a woman more vulnerable than she – and we – believes her to be. She’s the main torch that keeps the movie burning bright.
And oh, I find Michael McMann, the police officer working with Catherine and who knows more than he lets on, more intriguing than Thomas, in all honesty. A pity really. If Pierce Brosnan had been more of a significant weight in this movie, The Thomas Crown Affair would be simply heavenly.