The Thomas Crown Affair - B-
Viewed August 6, 1999 at Lincoln Square

Thomas Crown is an asshole. More specifically, he's the kind of asshole that's an Ayn Rand wet dream: a rich, immensely arrogant SOB who sees the world as a mirror to reflect the glory of his ego back at him. And I chafe at the film's rank materialism, its constant adoration of the trappings of wealth and its focus on the monetary value of Impression: Sunrise[1], the painting that serves as the McGuffin of the film's two elaborate heists. Ideologically, I'd like to see it consigned to the dankest film vault around, never to feel the warm glow of a projector bulb again.

But darn if a lot of it isn't highly pleasurable fun. The heists are directed with a geometrical precision and cheerful cleverness[2] that seems like a rarity in these Michael Bay days. The film's biggest surprise, however, is the complex, assured, and high-star-wattage performance from Rene Russo. Russo has never impressed me as an actress; her roles have invariably been as the girlfriend/wife of the film's protagonist, played by a megastar like Mel Gibson. In my more cynical moments, I thought she had been cast so as not to steal the film from her egotistic male costar. I guess I can't make fun of her anymore. Here, she steals the film outright from Brosnan's stiffly charismatic Crown. And in Crown's talked-about nude scenes, she displays an uncommon lack of self-consciousness about her body. (The camera seems much more concerned about her lack of clothing than she does.)

[1]It's not the fact that it founded the school of Impressionism and thus most of modern art that's important. That it's worth a "cool hundred million bucks" is.

[2]You've gotta love how the "Eastern European" gang that serves as the diversion on the first heist gets into the museum inside a Trojan horse.