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Four men pull off a daring daytime robbery at a bank, dump the money in a trash can and go their separate ways. Thomas Crown, a successful, wealthy businessman pulls up in his Rolls and collects it. Vickie Anderson, an independent insurance investigator is called in to recover the huge haul. She begins to examine the people who knew enough about the bank to have pulled the robbery and discovers Crown. She begins a tight watch on his every move and begins seeing him socially. How does the planner of the perfect crime react to pressure? Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Oddly enough, I had only seen the John McTiernan remake of THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR and while I realize it wasn't a masterpiece, I found it an entertaining and enjoyable caper. I just assumed that the original would be superior in every way and was excited about its airing on Reel 13 last night. After all, Norman Jewison, Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway seem like a late sixties dream team (Jewison was coming off of directing the Best Picture Oscar-winner the year before IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT). Instead, the film had absolutely no emotional impact on me at all and left me surprised, bewildered and severely disappointed.
At first, I couldn't figure out where it went awry. I kept wanting to like it, expecting it to turn a corner and pique my interest, but then, before I knew what hit me, it was over. It starts promisingly enough with a clever bank heist, but Crown isn't physically involved in the robbery and we never really see him planning it in any way, so he's sort of passive, as heroes go, especially given it's essentially the only heist in the film (the second one at the end is a quickly cut carbon copy of the first). Then, Faye Dunaway, as insurance investigator Vicki Anderson, solves the mystery of the robbery WAY too easily. She walks in, looking young and stunning in several ridiculous overly fashionable outfits, bats her eyes and more or less decides that Crown is the guilty party. So, the two major elements of any crime - the crime and the investigation are rushed through and devoid of any suspense whatsoever.
It's almost as if Jewison was in a rush to get to the longest scene in the film the sexy chess match, which Norman clearly was setting up as the not-so-subtle metaphor of the movie (Did Dunaway really need to suggestively stroke one of the phallic-looking chess pieces? Cheeee-sy). It was around this time that it occurred to me that it's not supposed to be a cops and robbers movie as much as it was supposed to be a love story. That's fine, in theory, but even their relationship scenes are rushed. He gives her a dune buggy ride on the beach and suddenly, they're soulmates? Sorry, I don't buy it.
I'm most disappointed in Jewison, who normally is such a stickler for detail and is so careful in his storytelling. Here, he seems more interested in the natural beauty of both his lead actors than in the plot. Even the device he employs early in the film of dividing the screen into boxes falls flat or rather, he doesn't use it to advance the story (like the current television show "24" does a great job of). While he does have several things going on at once the robbery comes at the bank from five different angles he would instead chooses to use his four of his blocks to show Steve McQueen and the rest are out of focus. Then, when all of Crown's pawns are at different places in the bank, Jewison returns to full frame shooting at a time where the blocks might have really been useful/effective. Stylistic choices like that need to serve the story, not to show off the director's ability to do tricks.
I can almost see why McTiernan felt like it was a necessary film to remake. The plot has a lot of potential extremely wealthy man plots bank robberies (or in the case of the remake art heists) and then meets his match when an attractive, intelligent insurance investigator becomes the first to suspect him. Sounds great, doesn't it? But this original version barely scratches the surface of that juicy plot and invests more time in Michel Legrand's bizarre rhythmless song "Windmills in My Mind" (connecting Crown to Don Quixote). If you want a fun caper movie (I never thought I would say this), rent the remake. Norman Jewison has made a lot of great films, but he really bungled this one.
(For more information on this film or any other Reel 13 film, check out their website on www.reel13.com)
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