Pan & Scan Welcome to PAN & SCAN where you will find film reviews of some of Hollywood's latest productions.

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Thomas Crown Affair   Starring: Pierce Brosnan & Rene Russo

  Genre: Thriller/Action

  Running Time: 113 Minutes

  Rating: Rated R for sexuality and language.

  Video Release: 11 January 2000

  Tagline: "How do you get the man who has everything?"

The Thomas Crown Affair would make a prime case study for all screenwriters -- in what to avoid when writing that next script. While the first and third acts are relatively strong, it is the dreadful Act II which causes this remake of the 1968 film (of the same name starring Steve McQueen) to falter into a series of superficial sequences which flounder about like dying mackerel on the shoreline.

Let’s analyze the film act by act. We have an intriguing opening where we meet our lead, Thomas Crown (Pierce Brosnan) whose rugged good looks and intense gaze commands the same sort of charisma he's shown in the James Bond films. As Crown, he is a sharp-dressed Manhattan businessman and billionaire who casually jests when he outwits his smug competitors for $30 million and likes to have "breakfast" in the Impressionist Wing of the Museum of Modern Art.

But Crown is far more than that. The plot moves quickly forward with a foiled robbery at the museum which proves to be a mere smoke screen as our protagonist takes on his ‘Mr. Hyde’ persona and casually walks off with a $100 million dollar Monet in his briefcase.

So far, so good but now comes that ever dreaded second act. We are now introduced to a stable of other characters including Catherine Banning (Renne Russo) who plays an insurance investigator with an exotic past and the world-weary police detective McCann (Denis Leary). In this jumble we are thrown into Crown’s lifestyle of the rich and famous and are to somehow believe that a game of cat and mouse transpires between Crown and Banning in which the two would risk all as they slowly fall in love. Snore....

Where the first act had direction, this act has the substance of a "GQ" ad. As Banning investigates, we follow Crown from his lavishly decorated Manhattan apartment to well-appointed villa in Martinique. Scenes that follow include black tie dancing, catamaran racing, six digit golf bets and glider rides. Crown certainly seems to know how to enjoy the good life and Banning slowly finds herself mesmerized by all these wonderful things he could offer a gal. But she’s got a job to do as well and finds herself in emotional turmoil torn between her head and her heart. (Picture a little angel and devil on opposite shoulders). Crown, too, begins to succumb to his emotions and starts to wonder if coming around and spilling all to her would make his life fuller -- or at least meaningful.

All the while this is going on, intercuts of Crown with his psychologist (Faye Dunaway, who played the role of Banning in the ‘68 version) are presented to make us believe a serious character psychology case is being explicated and that we are exploring the affinities between Crown and Banning. Instead, we are witness to a montage of vacant images, coolly smug smiles, speeches delivered without passion, and actions undertaken without urgency. If anything, these two stars will be nominated for the "Most Skin Shown in the 40 & over category" as we experience multiple scenes of bare breasts and buttocks. In one scene, Russo wears a sheer black nightgown in a rather racy dance sequence which is there to merely state she’s not over the hill, just yet.

The final act picks up dramatically with a smartly edited sequence in the museum featuring a cast of look-alike chaps dressed in bowlers (ala René Magritte) with a well laid soundtrack by Nina Simone titled "Sinnerman." The denouement then deflates the climax with a typical teary-eyed generic ending which reminded me of how truly sappy this picture is.

There's plenty of excitement at the beginning and ending of this tale, when the crime is at the forefront of the plot, but unfortunately the audience must wade through a swamp of melodrama in between these two tense sequences. The Thomas Crown Affair is a feel-good escapist film which gives us the feeling that we can work outside the system (like Crown) and get away with something. Hollywood, too, has gotten away with something. They've managed to remake a relatively obscure film from the 60’s, thrown in some contemporary stars, and believed they had something "original." Like Crown, they’re probably laughing themselves all the way to the bank. Don’t be duped. Wait for it to come on cable -- A big "2."

© Terrence J. Brady

The ratings for "Pan & Scan" are broken down into a simple 1-5 scale as follows: 5 = "Forget renting it - BUY IT!"; 4 = "Definite Must Rent"; 3 = "Coin Toss" (Rent it OR wait for cable); 2 = "Wait For Cable"; 1 = "Ignore It!" (Even when it's on network TV).