The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)

I enjoyed the heist aspects of The Thomas Crown Affair, but I hated the characters.

Although the movie is named after Mr. Crown (played by Pierce Brosnan), when the insurance investigator (played by Rene Russo) shows up, it seems the movie is going to be about her trying to catch him, or at least about him trying not to get caught. However, it’s actually about whether clever, cynical Crown can ever trust anyone, which is less interesting than a heist. Maybe it’s not a heist movie. Maybe it’s a romantic comedy with a heist in it. I don’t know. I’m confused. And so is Rene Russo’s character. In fact, she’s spineless. I hate spineless characters. (Like Elsa, for example. Don’t get me started.)

SPOILERS BELOW. Read on if you want to know why I think you should save yourself the trouble of watching this movie.

Thoughts on The Thomas Crowne Affair

Crown gets out of his chauffeured car on the way to work in Manhattan and goes to a museum with a briefcase, which he leaves behind. Later, four thieves (in a Trojan horse statue, ha ha) infiltrate the museum, dress as staff, and nearly manage to steal a bunch of art by helicopter. Crown actually manages to steal one particular painting with the help of some high-tech tools (hidden in three separate innocuous-looking briefcases) using the hired thieves as a diversion. He lends another painting to the museum while the authorities search for the missing one.

The authorities are not the only ones looking. A bounty hunter woman joins the investigation and immediately becomes convinced that Crown took it. She tells him so, and the two begin a cat-and-mouse game. She sleeps with him (that’s, as the character herself admits, a foregone conclusion), telling everyone and herself that she just wants to prove he’s the guilty one, but accidentally falls in love. She feels betrayed when she thinks he’s with another woman. He says he tricked her because he wanted to know for sure whether she did love him, that he is also in love, that he just has trouble trusting people. She believes him, or at least wants to. They make plans to run away together. But then it seems he’s cheating again. He promises to return the original painting, but she decides to help the cops catch him. Then she finds out the other woman is some kind of adopted daughter, and regrets betraying him. Which doesn’t matter, because he isn’t the kind of guy to let himself get caught anyway.

In a chaotic finale, the painting is revealed to be under a pane of glass behind the painting Crown lent to the museum. Meanwhile, Crown steals the bounty hunter’s favorite painting from the same exhibit hall. She thought she had lost her chance to be with him, but judging by his choice of painting, it seems he has forgiven her. Then, however, she is given the painting not by him but by an intermediary. She’s heartbroken again. She returns the painting to the museum and gets on a plane. In the end he shows up on that same plane and they live happily ever after.


I assumed we were supposed to identify with the feisty, cynical thief-catcher, who turns out to be putty in the rich dude’s hands, a prize for him to win, a prize that shows he’s completed his character arc. And how does that character arc go? In the beginning, he’s a smug but lonely rich dude; in the middle, he’s a lustful (but vulnerable!) rich dude; and in the end, he’s a smug rich dude with a woman. Hooray.

I’d prefer Ocean’s Eleven/Twelve/Thirteen or Now You See Me any day.