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Film / The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)

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The Thomas Crown Affair is the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), directed by John McTiernan and starring Pierce Brosnan as Crown and Rene Russo as Catherine Banning, the insurance investigator looking into an art theft masterminded by Crown. Faye Dunaway plays a minor role as Crown's psychiatrist, and Denis Leary plays Detective McCann, the official police investigator.

This film contains examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Catherine's response to Crown's prank at the end of the film. She tries to hide her smiling and laughter but fails.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Both Crown and Anderson/Banning. 1968 Crown orchestrated a bank robbery with people waiving guns at bystanders and at least one person shot. Here he masterminds a high-tech art caper, with the unarmed crew getting arrested mid-heist as a distraction, and has Pet the Dog moments offscreen. The original insurance detective (Dunaway) at one point kidnapped a child to gain leverage on one of Crown's team. Here she doesn't go harder than unarmed burglary.
  • Adaptation Name Change: In the 1968 version, the insurance investigator is named Vicki Anderson, in this version she is named Catherine Banning.
  • Always Gets His Man: Invoked by name during Catherine's introduction — on her way out of the party celebrating Crown's donation, she functionally tells him that she will get 5% of the value of the Monet if she catches him, and that she's looking forward to the case.
    Crown: You always get your man?
    Banning: Mm-hmm.
    Crown: Think you'll get me?
    Banning: Oh, I hope so.
  • Anachronism Stew: A minor example: when interrogating the "Romanian" suspect, Banning mentions that Romanians without papers make American authorities nervous because they might be from the "Securitate", the Communist-era Secret Police/Espionage Service - which had been disbanded 10 years prior to the movie. The scene also counts as Viewers Are Morons as at that point in time Romania had applied for membership in NATO and had stated during the Kosovo crisis that it would act as a NATO member even if it were not officially one, in complete opposition to the tension between the two countries suggested by Banning's statement. Needless to say, reactions of Romanian viewers when watching the scene ranged from hysterical laughter to cringing.
  • Anti-Villain: Crown himself probably counts as this, being a charming Gentleman Thief who never actually hurts anyone. He comes across more as a playful scalliwag.
  • Artistic License – Law:
    • Odds are very good that Catherine would have been arrested much earlier in the film. She blatantly breaks into Crown's house (as noted by Detective McCann) and interferes heavily in the police investigation. Even if she had found the real painting at his house, her ongoing relationship with the police would have rendered her a state actor, and therefore completely eliminated the state's chance to use the evidence in court. This is also pointed out by McCann, but she counters that she's interested in getting the painting back, and doesn't care if Crown is prosecuted or not.
    • A minor one for the police. When they bring in Crown to look at a lineup, all the members of the heist are in the room. Lineups require the use of several non-suspects for every suspect. Because of this, the identification would never be held up in court either because there was no option to be wrong.
  • Astronomic Zoom: The opening, which zooms into New York City, and down to the Crown Acquisitions Building as the titular character enters.
  • Crazy-Prepared: The whole plot of the film is motivated by Crown functionally being so bored with his line of work (Mergers and Acquisitions) that he enacts a highly-precise plan to steal a Monet (or so the audience thinks), accounting for every possible outcome in the process. He shows himself to be one step ahead of the competition at every turn, and walks away at the end with everything he wanted (and more). This is evidenced when he neatly ends McCann's search warrant by trotting out his lawyer, who happened to be in the Crown property at the time the warrant was being conducted, to stop it via technicality.
  • Crime-Concealing Hobby: Crown is well-known as a lover and connoisseur of art, and includes a visit to the museum as part of his daily routine. He's even on a first-name basis with security. He's actually scouting the place as he masterminds his heist.
  • Cutting the Knot: When faced with the Lost in a Crowd at the end:
    Detective McCann: Just start arresting people.
  • Double Entendre: Defied when Crown and Banning have dinner together:
    Thomas: May I ask you a very personal question?
    Catherine: Why not?
    Thomas: Would you like another hit of espresso?
    Catherine: (soon after) May I ask you a very personal question?
    Thomas: Sure, by all means.
    Catherine: Do you really think I'm going to sleep with a man I'm investigating?
  • Dress Hits Floor: Executed expertly when Crown and Banning first spend the night together.
  • Eccentric Millionaire: Crown, willing to place large bets on small things, wrecked a hundred thousand dollar boat because he liked the splash, and stole a painting worth over a hundred million dollars just for the thrill of it, to the extent that he essentially returned the painting the day after he stole it (albeit 'disguised').
  • Fake Brit: In-Universe. Crown is actually Scottish, but worked to change his accent so as not to be left out at university by English snobs. Works from a meta perspective too, since Pierce Brosnan is actually Irish.
  • Foreshadowing: Crown donates a Pissarro painting to take the place of the stolen Monet because "It seemed the right size for the space." It's actually the stolen painting with a watercolor copy of the Pissarro painted on top. As a bonus, the two original paintings are almost identical in size, with the Pissarro being just 8 cm wider and the same height.
  • Foreshadowing: When Crown hosts a party recognizing the donation of the Pissaro to the art gallery, Banning notes that it's virtually the same size as the missing Monet, hinting that Crown donated the piece as both a PR move and a convenient cover to obfuscate the fact that he stole the Monet. She's correct, but not in the way she thinks — the Pissaro is actually the original Monet, with a watercolor copy of a Pissaro on top, and is utilized during the final heist as a distraction from the theft of the second painting.
  • Gentleman Thief: The trope is described as a thief with "roguish good looks coupled with a breeding and style that manifests as a suave and debonair manner. He's usually a charmer, too—think James Bond without the government authorization." The description fits the womanizing yet sophisticated Crown to a tee, right down to being played by the current James Bond at the time. Also per the trope, Crown is a non-violent thief, using pure cunning to steal and mainly doing it in the manner that it is basically a hobby for him to stay wealthy (and have an impressive art collection), rather than any malicious intent beyond the steal itself.
  • Hammerspace: How Crown is able to fit the Monet into his briefcase, as the briefcase's width is half the size of the painting, and would require breaking the painting in half in order to actually fit inside, but somehow is transported undamaged. A scene showing exactly how Crown fit the painting in the suitcase (snapping the back of the frame, which wouldn't damage the painting itself) was filmed, but John Mctiernan cut it after negative audience reactions.
  • Hero Antagonist: McCann is generally a good person and a Fair Cop, but he is also Crown's main opponent after Catherine.
  • Impossible Theft: Crown's final theft in the museum of the other painting that he and Catherine discussed earlier in the film is supposed to make him seem like the ultimate master thief, but just ends up looking like this because there was no possible way for him to extract it with the gates shut, nor is any explanation provided.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Banning, according to several of the detectives. Not an obvious case of this trope, especially as she's played by ex-model Rene Russo, and her beauty isn't plot-relevant (her personality, on the other hand...)
  • Informed Ability: Catherine is presented as an intelligent, no-nonsense woman, but Crown plays her like a violin throughout the entire movie, and barring the final scene, she spends the last 15 minutes of the movie as a heartbroken emotional wreck. She does home in on Crown in the first place, however, and for most of the film both she and Crown are way ahead of the cops.
  • Insecurity Camera: Subverted. There's a sequence near the beginning where a team of art thieves are performing an elaborate operation and one of them ends up dangling in full view of a security camera. This is seen in the main security room, but the camera operator is reading and doesn't actually do anything in response.
  • Insistent Terminology: McCann corrects Katherine several times on his police rank.
  • Inspector Javert: Subverted with McCann. Although he's somewhat annoyed with Crown's cavalier and arrogant attitude, overall he's fairly relaxed and easy-going. At the end of the film, he explains to Catherine (in such a gentle and friendly way that she's almost moved to tears) that he really doesn't get art, doesn't care about Crown stealing a painting, is only going through the motions because his bosses assigned him to the case, and his primary goals are bringing real, violent criminals to justice (noting that the week prior to the theft he put away two crooked real estate agents and a man who was beating his own children to death). He closes by making it very clear he has no problem looking the other way while her and Crown make their getaway.
    Catherine: You're a good man.
  • Lost in a Crowd: Crown clearly shows himself to the security cameras wearing a trench coat and bowler hat, and carrying a valise. Then he walks off - and about two hundred confederates break out trench coats, bowler hats, and valises and start walking around the museum, switching valises many times. At some point, the real Crown ditches his own trench coat and bowler hat, slipping out a side entrance while everyone is looking for trench coats and bowler hats.
  • Mating Dance: There is already subtext because of Banning's see-through dress, but Crown's quip sends it over the brink:
    Thomas Crown: Do you want to dance, or do you want to dance.
  • Meaningful Echo: During her character introduction, Catherine displays her knowledge of Crown's history/file by accurately guessing his drink order, much to his chagrin. Later in the film, when they're eating dinner at Cipriani, Crown returns the favor by accurately guessing her drink order, showing that he is also Crazy-Prepared when it comes to research.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Catherine Banning, particularly in her Vapor Wear dress. There's also quite a bit of nudity from her in the middle act when she and Thomas are enjoying their island getaway.
  • No Badge? No Problem!: Catherine is working on behalf of the insurance agency responsible for the stolen painting, essentially a property bounty hunter. However, she behaves as if she's a sworn police officer, being allowed to interrogate suspects, but also performs actions that range from the stupid (informing Thomas Crown that he's the primary suspect, then later sleeping with him), to the outright illegal (copying Crown's keys so she can break into his mansion). She does get called out on some of her actions by Detective McCann, but nothing really comes of it.
  • Operation: Jealousy: Crown likes Catherine, but he doesn't know if she likes him. He lets photos leak of him 'dating' a younger woman to see if he gets a rise out of Catherine. He does.
  • Product Placement: Rene Russo practically chugs a Pepsi One with the label pointed directly at the camera. Interestingly enough, this particular instance is commonly CGI'd out in many versions, and/or replaced with another Pepsi product. There are several other minor product placements that change labels in various versions (i.e. broadcast, airline, theatrical, dvd, etc.)
  • Rags to Riches: Crown is a billionaire now, but he attended university on a boxing scholarship.
  • Relative Error: The young hot girl seen dancing with Crown and in his bedroom is actually his ward. He could've easily told Catherine this, but he invoked this trope because he wanted to test her.
  • Remake Cameo: Faye Dunaway, who played the insurance investigator in the 1968 version, as Crown's shrink.
  • Ringer Ploy: A sequence near the end where Crown enters the art museum and plainly shows himself to the security cameras, making sure everyone can see that he wears a trench coat and bowler hat and carries a valise. Then he walks off in a random direction — and hundreds of confederates break out identical hats, coats and valises, and start walking all over the museum, switching valises several times while the guards scramble. Somewhere in the confusion Crown ditches his own hat and coat, and slips out a side entrance. The scene also serves as a protracted reference to Crown's favorite possession being René Magritte's "The Son of Man", which depicts a man wearing a similar hat and coat. The decoys even have copies of the painting in their valises.
  • Secret Test of Character: The ending is motivated by Crown tricking Catherine by letting her think he was already in a relationship with a much younger woman (actually his ward, who he has no romantic feelings for), in order to see if she had genuine feelings for him.
  • The Shrink: Crown attends sessions with perhaps the worst shrink ever, a woman who holds him in open scorn and repeatedly laughs in his face while he's trying to tell her how he feels. No wonder the guy has trust issues.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: During the ending, when Crown reveals himself to Catherine on the plane, she leaps onto him and starts hitting him as a stewardess goes to intervene... only for the latter to stop when she realizes their "fight" has led them to start kissing.
  • Snobby Hobbies: The titular playboy is so rich he doesn't have a job, enjoys boating but purposefully wrecks his $100,000 vessel for no reason other than being bored, and is very knowledgeable about classical artwork due to frequenting museums.
  • Toplessness from the Back: Subverted; during their Caribbean getaway, Catherine runs around Crown's villa wearing nothing but a bath towel wrapped around her neck and partially obscuring her chest, and a skirt. When Crown offers her a glass of alcohol, she uses the towel as a "lasso" to reel him in for a kiss.
  • Trojan Horse: An upcoming exhibit being delivered to a museum. As a feint. Denis Leary even lampshades it.
  • The Unreveal: How Crown stole the second painting at the end is never explained.
  • Vapor Wear: Possibly one of the greatest ever filmed. The sheer dress that Banning wears to the dance was literally the only thing actress Rene Russo was wearing, and was so gossamer thin that extra care had to be taken to (not) light the scene so as to keep her from appearing naked on film. Russo has stated that the whole scene was incredibly uncomfortable to film, as she was (for all purposes) completely naked for everyone on set to see. The final film managed to hide this fact in its entirety, giving only the impression of an insanely sexy dress. Reinforced immediately thereafter by Dress Hits Floor in the next scene
  • Villain Protagonist: Crown is an art-thief with no apparent motivations other than to alleviate his Rich Boredom. Despite this he is quite friendly, charming and likable.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: McCann gives one to Katherine after she breaks into Crown's home, since the evidence would be thrown out in court. She reminds him that all she cares about is the painting.
  • You Do Not Want To Know: Banning says this when McCann asks what's in the organic shake she's drinking.