Wednesday, August 11, 1999

The Thomas Crown Affair

Posted By on Wed, Aug 11, 1999 at 12:00 AM

The pleasures of The Thomas Crown Affair are emblematic of what has been lost at the movies in our blockbuster era. This glossy fantasy of immense wealth and even greater sophistication (the two don’t necessarily go hand in hand) is a rarity: a movie about grown-ups who know themselves, what they want and how to get it.

Thomas Crown (Pierce Brosnan) has amassed a fortune from the ability to manipulate situations to his advantage, like a chess player who always beats the computer because his mind can find unexpected moves. He’s also a classic thrill-seeker, who steals a Monet from New York’s Metropolitan Museum.

This impressive art theft brings insurance investigator Catherine Banning (Rene Russo) into his sphere. Catherine uses her formidable sexual charisma as part of her professional arsenal and quickly zeros in on the elusive, attractive Thomas Crown. As successful and emotionally unencumbered as he is, Catherine eyes Thomas as both a potential partner and as prey, a formidable ally or adversary.

Director John McTiernan quickly establishes a cat-and-mouse affair, with self-interest pitted against romance, and competition only fueling Thomas and Catherine’s intense attraction. Bucking the increasingly repulsive May-December trend, Brosnan (46) and Russo (45) are peers, and it shows in their assured, adult sensuality.

The differences between 1967’s Thomas Crown Affair (starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway) are telling, and go beyond the remake’s tastefully explicit sex scenes on (presumably chilly) marble stairs. The original eyed both the crime (bank robbery) and the sexual relationship with a cool detachment, as if money and mating were hopelessly passé.

In the romantic, stock market-fueled 1990s, true love and prosperity are pursued with equal vigor, and The Thomas Crown Affair serves as a nifty blueprint for having your cake and eating it too.

Serena Donadoni writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail her at


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