As of the beginning of August 1999, Microsoft head honcho Bill Gates was the richest man in the world, with an approximate worth of around $80 billion (down around $10 billion from earlier in the summer). Even if he cashed out everything and became a recluse, he'd still have more than enough money to do or buy pretty much whatever he wanted.
The question then follows about what such rich people do for fun. Yes, with the number of billionaires around the world growing at an unprecedented rate, this is a horrible plight that must be addressed and brought to the public's attention before it gets out of control and they start sending me truckloads of money. Ah, but to dream...
Of course, one can only guess what those billionaires do in their spare time. While Mr. Gates obviously now has a few pint-sized billionaires scampering around the house to keep him somewhat busy, one has to wonder if he uses $1,000 bills to light the fireplace, or if he simply hires more high-priced lawyers to further irritate the Justice department just for fun.
Then again, perhaps he or others in the same predicament moonlight in other professions, such as cat burglary. That's the premise of "The Thomas Crown Affair," a remake of the 1968 Norman Jewison film of the same name that starred Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway as the playfully adversarial "couple."
While I've never seen the original film and thus can't compare the two, this one has changed the billionaire's "pastime" from bank robberies to art heists, but apparently has otherwise retained the spirit and basic overall premise of the original.
As helmed by action director John McTiernan (the first and third "Die Hard" films as well as "The Hunt For Red October" and "Predator") and written by the collaborative screenwriting team of Leslie Dixon ("Mrs. Doubtfire," "Outrageous Fortune") who penned the romance elements and Kurt Wimmer ("Sphere") who scripted the heist sequences, the film is an enjoyable piece of fluff entertainment and clearly benefits from two important elements.
The first is the general public's fascination with the rich and famous. From magazines and TV shows like "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" we love seeing how the "better half" lives, and this film oozes such material. From the decor of Crown's home to a quick flight to the Caribbean, there are plenty of sights to make the audience envious. It also doesn't hurt that its stars, Pierce Brosnan and Renee Russo, are also more than a bit easy on the eyes.
Brosnan, somewhat in danger of becoming typecast as the debonair leading man -- especially after many stints as 007 in the "James Bond" films -- is nonetheless quite good as the playfully mysterious Crown. While the moments of him partially spilling the beans to his psychiatrist -- and thus showing some depth -- are not as successful, Brosnan should entertain audiences yearning for a suave, but calculating playboy whose motives are never quite clear until the final scene.
For a change of pace from many of her previous roles, Russo ("Tin Cup," the last two "Lethal Weapon" films), a former model, plays off her glamorous side and the effect works quite well. While some may be surprised to see her baring so much flesh -- for the first time and in her mid- forties -- it's clearly a non-forced choice of hers and Russo delivers a good performance, skin or no skin.
Supporting performers are clearly put on the back burner. Denis Leary ("True Crime," "Wag the Dog") can't do much with his stereotypical cop role (he's pretty much relegated to giving Russo's character disapproving looks), while former Oscar winner and costar of the original film, Faye Dunaway ("Network," "Chinatown") appears for nothing more than an extended cameo as Crown's shrink (in some scenes that really do little for the overall film).
Since we know from the start that Crown has stolen the valuable painting and that Catherine immediately suspects him, the film must then offer some fun "cat and mouse" chess match moments -- where the two try to outsmart and/or maneuver the other without following in love -- in order to succeed.
While it doesn't contain as many as I personally would have liked to have seen -- but otherwise has some long and drawn out sequences that seem more like filler than necessary elements -- enough twists and turns are present to keep things interesting and the audience entertained, particularly at the end.
When such moments aren't present -- and one begins to notice passing similarities to this year's "Entrapment" (with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones in somewhat similar roles), McTiernan and cinematographer Tom Priestly ("Bordello of Blood," "Lovestruck") compensate by continuously varying the nearly always moving camera shots, while veteran composer Bill Conti (an Oscar winner for "The Right Stuff") uses an odd and somewhat eclectic combination of music to establish or maintain the mood of various scenes.
While such music helps give the film what's presumably an intentional 1960s feel -- to pay homage to the original and despite being set in the present -- it quickly begins to feel a bit too forced and soon becomes annoying, although it thankfully dissipates in the second half.
Although the film has some dull and/or unnecessary moments, for the most part it's an enjoyable enough, albeit lightweight diversion that adult moviegoers should find to their liking. With enough audience pleasing moments and decent performances from its leads, the film might not be remembered for long (much like the original), but delivers enough "bang for the buck" enjoyment to make it worth recommending -- even for bored billionaires. We give "The Thomas Crown Affair" a 6.5 out of 10.