Despite Pierce Brosnan practically being a household name due to his tenure as James Bond throughout the 90’s, the rest of his work received practically no hope in comparison to when there was a new Bond film rolling out. One of these movies was the remake of 1968’s “The Thomas Crown Affair.” Admittedly I was only 12 when this movie was released, but given that most of family had been Bond, and eventually Brosnan, fans for quite awhile, you would think that more would have been said about this. Instead, I didn’t learn of the movie until they did, which was well after its home video release. Granted, I was too young to watch it thanks to the gratuitous bits of Rene Russo’s foray into movie nudity, but I intended to finally watch it someday. And, inevitably, I have.
Thrill-seeking billionaire Thomas Crown (Brosnan) loves nothing more than courting disaster and winning. So when his world becomes too stiflingly safe, he pulls off his boldest stunt ever: stealing a priceless painting in broad daylight from one of Manhattan’s most heavily guarded museums. But his post-heist excitement soon pales beside an even greater challenge: Catherine Banning (Russo). A beautiful insurance investigator hired to retrieve the artwork, Catherine’s every bit as intelligent, cunning and hungry for adventure as he is. And just when Thomas realizes he’s finally met his match, she skillfully leads him into a daring game of cat and mouse that’s more intoxicating and dangerous than anything either of them has ever experienced before.
I can only imagine that this recent release was spawned by the formulating of a sequel, which I don’t quite understand the need for after finally watching it. Granted, it was a very enjoyable movie, and I have no surprises that I found it as such considering director John McTiernan’s background. “Last Action Hero” is probably the only movie on his directorial repertoire that I don’t care for, but I admit I haven’t watched it since its release in 1993. It’s sad to see that he really hasn’t made a recent movie that has done well, and nearly a whole decade has passed since his last one. I can’t speculate as to why his post-90’s movie haven’t done well, but I can’t really imagine a post-millennium movie from him. Each of his movies has a nostalgic flair that makes them easily defining avatars of the decade, and you instantly find yourself fondly remembering the atmosphere that came with action movies in the 90’s. That atmosphere changed pretty abruptly with the end of the century, and “The Thomas Crown Affair” may simply be one of the last movies that manages to keep the 90’s alive, without infamously doing so.
The story apparently changes pretty drastically from the Steve McQueen version, which involves him robbing a bank as opposed to Brosnan’s stealing valuable art. From what I’ve read, the reasoning behind this was a sound decision in that it allowed us to sympathize with Brosnan’s eccentric character more, and I have to say it worked. You are easily pulled into his entertaining antics and Brosnan pulls these off with all the charisma that we love about him. Filling out the movie’s trio of main characters are Rene Russo, who is probably most familiar from the “Lethal Weapon” franchise, and the very outspoken Denis Leary, who is shockingly tame in this. In fact, he’s nearly tame to the point in which you’ll sit back wondering as to why he took the role at all, but I suppose you can’t hold it against him; he pulls off the cynical detective really well. Despite his more laid back style, there’s not a single scene with him that you don’t enjoy. Rene’s character, however, isn’t as well done. She plays the good-guy rival to Brosnan, and inevitably the love interest.
The majority of the story revolves around the battle of wits that Russo and Brosnan engage in, and most of it is very clever. However, I noticed that Russo’s character is written to have some really strange traits when we’re first introduced to her. Nothing exaggerated or overly distracting, but just quirky things that get focused on without any real explanation, most notably was her spontaneously chugging down a Pepsi after making a breakthrough in the case. No explanation came of it, even though it felt like some bizarre ritual of hers. The quirky attributes are pretty quickly dropped as her character becomes more romantically focused towards Thomas Crown, but it’s not really replaced with anything else. She’s left to be a very underdeveloped character, and even her time on screen begins to feel more forced. Most notably would have to be when they’re at Thomas Crown’s vacation house, and she simply lounges around with her top off. The nudity was expected, and tasteful, when it came to a sex scene that took place prior to this, but I was left confused as to what the point of the lounging topless scene was. Russo, while attractive, simply isn’t the type I would expect random gratuitous nudity from.
Overall, I found the movie to be very enjoyable, although you may notice a plot hole or two throughout it. It begins to become more predictable as the climax finally unfolds, which you can tell the writing was more devoted towards making the wrap-up an entertaining spectacle to alleviate the drama that takes over the last third or so of the film. Despite the predictability, and even some slightly ludicrous aspects to the conclusion, I found myself easily pushing it aside to simply enjoy the happily ever after that it inevitably concludes on. Of course, the more I think about it, the less I see a reason for a sequel, but I suppose it’s to be expected with the rampant lack of originality plaguing the movie industry these days.
Fox has released Thomas Crown Affair on Blu-ray in a two-disc Elite Blu-ray case. The film arrives with the usual Blu-ray on one disc, but rather than including a digital copy they just include a DVD copy, which appears to be the original DVD release. Menus are simple and easy to navigate and overall it’s a nice little package…though an odd film to even bother releasing on the format, if you ask me.
The video arrives with an incredibly strong AVC encoded transfer. I say “incredibly” because his film is over a decade old at this point, but it really looks fantastic on the format. Strong details abound from start to finish, with the varied locations of the film each taking on a life of their own. Whether it’s the stately buildings or seaside romps, there’s not an image in sight that doesn’t visually appease in some form or another. Close-ups are always laden with detail and it’s really only the long shots that exhibit any real softness to the image; so it’s clearly not a flawless image, but it’s darn near close and given its age that makes it all the more surprising.
Audio is similarly pleasing, with a DTS-HD 5.1 MA track that surrounds and delights. There is a bit of a dated feel to the track, both in terms of ambience as well as LFE usage, but overall it’s remarkably clean. There’s no hiss or distortion and there’s a lot of surround activity when it comes to the New York sequences. It is a bit subdued, but, again, that’s probably more to do with its age than anything else. Overall it’s a well done track, but since the film isn’t exactly all about packing in the explosions, don’t expect a whole lot of booming from the woofer—it’s really quite quiet most of the time.
Extras are sadly nearly non-existent. In fact on the Blu-ray disc there is nothing but the movie (along with over half a dozen other language and subtitle tracks, anyway) itself; you have to go to the dated DVD edition to find the director commentary for this film (of which that and a few trailers are the only extras…but as we all know, trailers are not real extras).
Overall a release you can easily Skip. Sorry, there just isn’t anything about this film that’s worth owning on Blu-ray—and this release certainly doesn’t make a case for it either.
The Thomas Crown Affair is now available on Blu-ray.
Film review by Andrew
Blu-ray review by Zach Demeter