The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, January 9, 2000
Wide Angle

Remaking a Classic
By Ervell E. Menezes

THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR is a remake and I was wondering why so soon as I vividly remember the Steve McQueen-Faye Dunaway original, and I loved it. But checking with my scrapbook I saw it was over three decades ago. It is understandable why they gave Dunaway the brief cameo of a psychiatrist but all said and done that was a more powerful film. It was also known for its 360 degree pan of the camera which was I think repeated in Love Story.

In the original film Thomas Crown was essentially a bank robber. In this Crown (Pierce Brosnan) is a playboy and collector. One moment he’ll be golfing, another yachting. He is a connoisseur living in high places. All the drop of a hat (or should we say skirt?) he can jet to the Caribbean with some ravishing female. Yes, he has a yen for women and this conforms with the Bond image of Pierce Brosnan.

Enter Catherine (Renee Russo) and she’s a brilliant woman detective. Known as "bell-bottoms and bounties" it is obvious that she likes men but she is unable to keep them around. Will Thomas Crown be an exception? Known for her professionalism, can this be the ultimate test? Shades of "Entrapment," it is a repartee-strewn screenplay’ but though Russo makes an impressive entry she isn’t able to match Faye Dunaway as a seductress, not to speak of Steve McQueen who was at that time one of the most-sought-after male stars in Hollywood.

  Their chemistry worked better but as far as locales and high living is concerned, this is flashier. Director John McTiernan zooms in on these aspects and cinematographer Tom Priestly does an excellent job with the cinematography. Then the special effects make the fare glitzy and good performances by both Brosnan and Russo further embellish the film. There are other cameos too and if you’ve not seen the 1960s film you won’t know that you’re missing. It is worth seeing anyway.

"Bulworth" is an excellent political farce and considering that Hollywood does not revel in political films it is most welcome. Warren Beatty may be a good actor but I like him better as a director. Yet, he hasn’t directed a film for over a decade. I think Reds was his last. In the 1970s he made Parallax View which dealt with politics and the media.

As Senator Jay Bulworth, Beatty is contesting the primary election as a Democrat. The year is 1996, and Clinton is the Presidential candidate. Bulworth hasn’t slept for days and is heading for a nervous breakdown. In this frame of mind Bulworth arranges his own death by hiring a hit man to assassinate him during the final campaign weekend. He takes a 10-million insurance policy by which his daughter will benefit.

Boozing all the way back to Los Angeles he finds new strength because of his self-planned assassination. He finds the freedom to speak honesty. In Beverly Hills he berates the film industry for its "Jewish lobby." Discarding his written speeches, he speaks ex-tempore, from the heart as it were and wins loud applause from the audience. In the process of course, he exposes many skeletons in the Democrat cupboard.

Spending a wild night with the blacks he gets close to Nina (Halle Berry), a black with sinister motives which he is unaware of. It is at this juncture he wants to call off the assassination plan but he is unable to contact the hit man. What begins as a normal political drama soon descends into farce. Suddenly Bulworth in a trance is reciting verse, rap style. There are some hilarious lines and at one time even his car raps along with him but in the midst of this farce his visit to the black quarter is wrought with some touching moments. When a white cop tries to bully a group of blacks, Bulworth intervenes and makes him apologise to the blacks. "I’ve waited all my life for this moment," says a kid who is witness to the incident.

Slowly but surely Bulworth is falling in love with Nina and this worries his campaign managers. The emaciated-looking Beatty fits the role like a glove and he doesn’t hesitate to wallow in sycophancy dished out to him. When a car backfires he ducks, thinking it is an assassination effort. Can he change the course of history ? Just when it seems so, the inevitable happens. It is the calm before the storm and the impact is stunning.

Beatty is excellent in the lead role. He may no longer be the Hollywood stud he once was but his acting skills have only sharpened with age and in Halle Berry he has found a first rate actress. Oliver Platt, Paul Sorvino and Jack Warden provide some good cameos but it is essentially Beatty and Berry who corner the glory. Don’t miss Bulworth.

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