This remake is hardly an "Affair" to remember 

Deja View

OK, perhaps I'm being too harsh. After all, the original version of "The Thomas Crown Affair" had more than its share of problems. I mean once you get past the oddity of split-screen, simultaneous action (a daring device back in 1968, apparently) and the palpable erotic tension in that chess game between Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway, the movie is a run-of-the-mill crime caper. For this '90s update, not much has changed other than the names of the cast and crew. The plot remains ostensibly the same: a handsome and amoral gentleman thief is planning a major heist. In the original, it's a bank job. In the remake, Thomas Crown masterminds the impossible — stealing a $100 million Monet from The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Out to snare him is beautiful and equally conscienceless female insurance investigator Catherine Banning. The two enter into a stylish game of cat-and-mouse as they try to outwit, trust and seduce the other. Right about now, many of you will be saying "Wait a minute! Isn't that the plot of that Sean Connery/Catherine Zeta-Jones flick 'Entrapment?'" And you would be correct. That earlier disappointing thriller plundered everything from "The Thomas Crown Affair" except the title. But while Connery looked a tad too long in the tooth for the daring cat-burglar shenanigans of "Entrapment," Pierce Brosnan is more than up to the task. He's no McQueen, but he does make a suave and debonair Thomas Crown. As Catherine Banning, Rene Russo does not fare as well. She has all the right femme fatale moves — she just doesn't have the character depth to back them up. As Banning's police counterpart, angry Irish comedian-turned-actor Denis Leary gets another shot at making a name for himself on the big screen. But instead of trying something different, like his role in "The Ref," he's once again caught between a squabbling couple. For me, the most interesting thing about this remake is its director. John "Die Hard" McTiernan seems an odd choice to helm this sexy, stylish thriller where the sparks only fly between the stars and not in a series of escalating special effects. While he gets the look of the movie right, McTiernan's direction seems workmanlike at best. Subtlety is not his strong suit. This flaw is particularly noticeable in the movie's mid-section, the hour McTiernan and co-writers Leslie Dixon and Kurt Wimmer have to fill between the two heists. In the original, this down-time between capers was a lesson in sexual tension and eroticism. McQueen and Dunaway nearly melted the screen when they finally kissed. Yes, just kissed. But what a kiss! A kiss for the cinema record books, weighing in at a full 70 breathless seconds. This being the '90s, of course, Brosnan and Russo do more than kiss. And they do it for a lot longer than 70 seconds. Tasteful nudity aside, this scene never hits the erotic high of the original. Dare I say, it's actually a bit boring. It's obvious that McTiernan's true interest in "The Thomas Crown Affair" lies in the two capers. Much more complex here than in the original, they are quite fun so long as you ignore the numerous contrivances necessary to pull them off. Realism wasn't one of the original's strong points, and it certainly carries little weight in the remake. But for all it's flaws, including being inundated with product placement (Lucent, Pepsi, Bulgari), this "Thomas Crown Affair" is slick enough to entertain. Russo and Brosnan look terrific in all of the posh locations and expensive costumes, and the cameo by Dunaway is a wonderful treat. The filmmakers were also smart enough to include several reworkings of Michel Legrand's Oscar-winning song from the original, "The Windmills of Your Mind." They also altered the specifics of the plot enough to keep fans of the original guessing at the movie's outcome. This remake's greatest strength is style. And because of that fact, the movie satisfies in it own shallow, but enjoyable,

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