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This film is a remake of the 1968 film of the same name, which starred Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway (Dunaway has a small role in this film also).  Pierce Brosnan plays the millionaire playboy Crown, who steals an extremely valuable painting from the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Rene Russo is Catherine Banning, the morally ambiguous insurance investigator who knows that Crown is responsible and determines to bring him to justice, but is hampered by her own attraction to him.

Having seen both this version and the 1968 film, I would have to conclude that the original is the superior movie, although on paper it would not seem to be the case.  In the 1999 version, Crown steals a painting which he loves, rather than simply stealing money, and this is an improvement on the original film.  However, despite the obvious flaws in the 1968 film, it did have one huge advantage, and that is Steve McQueen.  I like Pierce Brosnan, but he doesn’t have an ounce of the natural charisma that McQueen had.  I also felt that there was absolutely no chemistry between Brosnan and Russo – and Russo, who is normally such a reliable actress, seemed to be really over-acting here.  I’m sure she was channelling Faye Dunaway (who played her counterpart in the original), but she doesn’t really pull it off.

Another thing that was made clear to me by this film was that lots of sex does not equal sexy.  Both Brosnan and Russo (or maybe body doubles in some scenes; who knows?) both flash a LOT of flesh, and there is a pretty explicit sex scene, and….it’s just not sexy.  The suggestion of sex, or the sexual tension which was so obvious in the chess scene in the first movie (and I’m sorry to keep comparing the two, but it’s hard not to), was much much more sensual, without a breast or buttock in sight.

This film wasn’t all bad though – it was glossily shot, and at least dispensed with the nauseating split-screen effect of it’s predecessor.  The heist at the beginning of the film was far better executed, and there was a terrific further scene in the Museum of Modern Art at the end of this film, as well.  I won’t say more for risk of posting spoilers, but I did think that it was very cleverly done.

Also, Denis Leary was in this film, playing the Police Detective investigating the theft, and he was probably the best actor in it.  It’s strange, but for all the flaws of the original film, I still rooted for Crown to get away with it – in this version, I was rooting for the Police to come through.

Basically, this movie is something that can be watched and enjoyed, but it is definitely a case of style over substance.  Worth watching once, but if a good heist movie is what you’re after, there are plenty better out there.

Year of release: 1999

Director: John McTiernan

Producers: Michael Tadross, Pierce Brosnan, Beau St. Clair, Bruce Moriarty, Roger Paradiso

Writers: Alan R. Trustman, Leslie Dixon, Kurt Wimmer

Main cast: Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo, Denis Leary, Frankie Faison

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Click here for my review of the 1968 film.

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