Even thirty-one years ago, “The Thomas Crown Affair” was just a hollow excuse to watch two glamorous stars rub noses and other body parts. McQueen and Dunaway had glamour, all right, but the flick that brought them together was a too-slick-to-stomach caper about a diva insurance investigator out to catch a bored Boston millionaire who robs banks for kicks.
Changes have been made for this version, though Dunaway contributes a cameo as a shrink. Director John McTiernan, working from a script by Leslie Dixon and Kurt Wimmer, switches the locale from Boston to Manhattan and Thomas Crown from a bank robber to an art thief. That’ll fool ’em. The latter change makes the plot sound like a remake of the recent and much better Entrapment, in which snoop Catherine Zeta-Jones pursued art filcher Sean Connery.
All of which means that the new Thomas Crown relies heavily on the charm of its two stars. Pierce Brosnan, enjoying a career renaissance as 007, looks the part of the well-dressed tycoon – he makes Thomas a one-man fashion parade – but you don’t sense his passion flowing when Catherine Banning (Rene Russo) breathes down his neck. Silly boy. Russo gives off enough carnal heat to singe the screen. Topless on the beach, torrid on the dance floor and a tiger between the sheets, Catherine is fantasy made flesh. That she’s played, with a tough core of intelligence and wit, by a forty-five-year-old actress is some kind of miracle in Hollywood, a place where most women lose their babe status as soon as they’re old enough to vote. Let’s hear it for Russo. In a movie brimming over with fake art, she’s the genuine article that makes the show worth watching.