THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, THE
(director: Norman Jewison; screenwriter: Alan R. Trustman; cinematographer: Haskell Wexler; editors: Hal Ashby/Byron Brandt/Ralph Winters; cast: Steve McQueen (Thomas Crown), Faye Dunaway (Vicky Anderson), Paul Burke (Eddy Malone), Jack Weston (Erwin Weaver), Yaphet Kotto (Carl), Astrid Heeren (Gwen), Biff McGuire (Sandy); Runtime: 102; United Artists/Mirisch; 1968)
“It turns out to be an easily forgettable caper movie that was pleasing on the eyes as much as it was easy on the noodle.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A stylishly, slick, romantic thriller, that is pleasing to the senses. It brings together a hot director, Norman Jewison, who just finished “In the Heat of the Night;” a superstar, Steve McQueen, at the peak of his popularity; and, a fresh newcomer, Faye Dunaway, whose “Bonnie and Clyde” was just about to be released. It’s a nonsensical caper movie about a bank robbery in Boston done by the antihero, the self-made millionaire, Thomas Crown (McQueen), mostly for the thrill of giving it to the Establishment. You have to remember that this film was made in the radicalized 1960s and that reason for robbing a bank might have been accepted back then in some circles as being the hip thing to do.
A precision robbery is planned by Crown, as he hires five men who never know him and don’t know each other, to pull off the job. It is reminiscent of Kubrick’s “The Killing,” but Jewison’s film pales in suspense when compared to the former. Jewison’s film becomes more of a sexual showdown between the playboy Crown and the attractive insurance investigator, Vicky (Faye). Vicky will get a ten percent commission of the money recovered for her efforts to trap the bank robber. While for Crown, he is in love with how smart he is.
We see only one of the men, Erwin (Weston), being hired by Crown, who comes to a New York hotel to meet his unknown boss. The boss is hidden in the darkness and gives him money to buy a Ford station wagon with wood paneling on the side and tells him he will get a number of payments from the heist go directly into his bank account, and he is told that this is done so the stolen money can’t be traced to him. His job will be to drive the station wagon to a cemetery and unload the money bags in a bin.
After the successful heist of two million and six hundred thousand dollars, Crown flies to Switzerland and opens a secret bank account and makes the necessary arrangements with the bank to pay the men who pulled off the heist. It will require him making many trips there to keep the account full. The idea of choosing a Swiss account, is that they do not disclose who holds the account.
The Boston policeman in charge of the investigation, Eddy Malone (Burke), gets help from the insurance investigator. She figures out that it must have been Crown who pulled the caper, by figuring out his flight plans to Geneva. She then attends a polo match to catch his attention and meets him again at an art auction, where she tells him who she is and what she is after. It becomes a chess match to see who will outsmart the other. I mean it literally becomes a chess match, with Vicky winning a chess game between the two at his place before Crown tells her to play his game; and, the romance reaches a climax which ends in a minute-long kiss that cutely dissolves into a blur instead of showing what took place next in the bedroom.
There’s a closing scene of betrayal, much influenced by the style of French New Wave films. But the film will not be remembered for its plot or the twists in it, but only for the good chemistry between the Cary Grant-like suave demeanor of McQueen and the cool disposition of the good looking Dunaway. Though the sex scenes were not very fleshy, it was mostly seen as foreplay via dialogue; yet, the film, nevertheless, still sold itself on this game of sex between the two amoral fortune hunters.
The film offered an Oscar winning song scored by Michael Legrand, Windmills of Your Mind, and some fancy camera work of split-screen images by cinematographer Haskell Wexler. But if you are looking for anything but a fun film, I think you’ll be disappointed. It turns out to be an easily forgettable caper movie that was pleasing on the eyes as much as it was easy on the noodle.
REVIEWED ON 4/2/2000 GRADE: C+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/