One of those truisms of life is that sequels and remakes rarely equal let alone surpass their original. Not impossible, but rare. When I first watched Norman Jewison’s THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (1968) I enjoyed the details of the heist, but overall felt underwhelmed. With leading actors like Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway, combined with high style, I was impressed by the visuals (especially the costume design and the mod editing). But the lack of chemistry between Dunaway and McQueen (how could anyone NOT have red hot chemistry with super sexy Steve?!); it left me cold.
Then the remake came. John McTiernan’s THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (1999) took Alan Trustman’s original story that centered on a bank heist in the 1968 film and flipped it into an art heist. Rare art heist allowed for a sexier, more stylish plot vehicle to drive this remake with more clever moments of cat-and-mouse pace and better build up of sexual tension.
Pierce Brosnan is Thomas Crown, the charming and confident billionaire playboy who collects rare paintings and crashes 100 thousand dollar sailboats, just for kicks. He’s bored in life because he’s never found an equal, as we see him relay in confidence to his therapist, who is portrayed by Faye Dunaway. When a heist at the art museum by a group of outsiders goes awry yet leaves a Claude Monet missing, it’s actually Crown who becomes the main suspect. Enter Rene Russo as Catherine Banning, insurance investigator and his greatest adversary and equal.
Thus begins the chase of cat and mouse. But who is the cat and who is the mouse? Banning works in tandem with the police (Denis Leary and Frankie Faison as Detectives McCann and Paretti) but prefers her work as a soloist. As Banning hunts down her prey, she begins to fall for Crown as he does her. Banning is sexy, boldly stylish, empowered, clever, ambitious, supremely confident and unyielding when she goes for what she wants. They are the same.
I know full well that many of my classic film friends will respond in opposition to my assertion that this film from the late 90s could possibly surpass its classic original. But let’s take a deeper look.
This is no simple set-up and chase crime thriller with guns blazing. This film does a masterful job with clever editing and unexpected plot devices to keep us interested. (Warning: a few spoilers may pop up.) Even in an early scene, a Trojan horse device is literally used as a Trojan horse. All the details from the initial heist to the final reveal involve unique and thought-provoking twists and turns. One of my favorites involves a parade of men in bowler hats as camouflage.
It may not be the cool swinging 60s style of the 1968 film, but style it exudes nonetheless. If sexy is a style, then Brosnan and Russo bring that particular flavor of style in heavy measure throughout. Brosnan is in Bond-form for a commanding presence of athleticism and cool confidence in a classically tailored suit and the occasional similarly cut shirtless look. Fire-haired Russo is draped in bold fashions to match the boldness of her moves. One particular scene is a blush-worthy dance centered on a body-skimming dress worn by Russo that you could read the The New York Times through.
In all of the memorable scenes, Bill Conti’s music plays a key role. Obviously it serves invaluable to bring sex appeal. In other scenes, it quickens the pace and/or provides the right touch of playful whimsy.
The ongoing tango between the Crown and Banning characters should be constantly competitive, and electric with sexual tension. Brosnan and Russo deliver. For me, McQueen’s interpretation is appropriately cool as one would expect from him, but his interactions with Dunaway comes across as almost disinterested. As for Dunaway, the style is undoubtedly gorgeous but her coolness transcends into cold. Leary and Faison do a fine job for a sliver of lightness in character acting.
Another test for what ultimately makes the 1999 version the victor for me, is how it holds up in repeat screenings. I find myself enjoying watching the remake many times over as it has held up well. I cannot say the same for its original. (Okay Kell, brace yourself for the pitch fork frenzy of feedback from readers.)
This has been my contribution to the “It Takes A Thief” Blogathon, hosted by Moon In Gemini, November 17-19, 2017. Be sure to read all the other entries for posts on films that ‘steal’ your attention!
14 thoughts on “THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (1999) Bringing Sexy Back”
No. Not going for the pitchfork. Appreciate the candor, and the choice of film is excellent. Brosnan is tops. Rene Russo’s picture should be in the dictionary next to “woman”. I think you may start a cult around this version.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Woo Hoo! Let’s start a ‘Sexy Women Over 40″ Club! Thanks for the good words- happy to hear I’m not alone in the cult.
Truly agree with your assessment. Brosnan and Russo really sizzle and make you wonder who has caught whom!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks so much, Susan! 🙂
Oh, this one is truly one the most underrated sequels out there. Love it!
I’m so glad you love it too, Michael!
LikeLiked by 1 person
I enjoyed the film very much and agree That this being an art heist probably opens up the story a lot. Hell Yeah Russo and Brosnan had chemistry. No pitchfork here. I’d really like to see both films back-to-back, but your writing is so good you make a good cogent case for the latter version.
Call me when the “Sexy Women Over 60” chapter opens so I may sign up. I saw “The Thomas Crown Affair” back in 1968.
Nice job Kellee!
This is the superior version, although it lacks “Windmills “.
Both are very good films, but I agree this one has amazing chemistry between the actors. I like the first one, but think there is a coldness about it in some scenes. The remake is a bit easier to get on with. Nothing in this remake can top that famous chess scene in the original though.
Haven’t seen the original but love Brosnan and Russo.
I remember there was some controversy about Russo’s casting because she was thought to be “too old” for the part even though she’s a year younger than Brosnan–grrrr! The thinking in Hollywood is so messed up and it’s great that the movie proved it wrong.
Thanks for contributing to the blogathon!
I absolutely agree! As much as I love McQueen and prefer originals to remake, I thing this Thomas Crown is much more entertaining than the original.