The Thomas Crown Affair

[25 April 2010]

By Cyrus Fard

Released months before his third outing as James Bond in The World Is Not Enough, Pierce Brosnan’s co-production of The Thomas Crown Affair in 1999 proved to be another worldwide success for the actor. A remake of the 1968 heist film of the same name, the lead roles once played by Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway were handed to Brosnan and Rene Russo. With the action sequence expertise of director John McTiernan and the dynamic chemistry of its two leads, the film has high promise but only occasionally hits its stride.

Brosnan is Thomas Crown, the pinnacle of brash hedonism, betting thousands of dollars on a golf swing, crashing an expensive catamaran for the hell of it, and living it up as a dashingly successful businessman who just loves a great challenge. The only catch is he also happens to be a cunning thief. The film opens with an intense and carefully orchestrated heist sequence consisting of Crown’s elaborate robbery of a New York museum’s Monet valued at $100 million dollars. The insurers of the artwork send their best investigator to help Detective Michael McCann (Denis Leary) solve the crime. Enter Catherine Banning(Rene Russo): tall, sexy, and fiercely dedicated to getting her job done by any means necessary.

Much of the film revolves around the cat-and-mouse game between Crown and Banning, the latter seeing through Crown’s deceit yet still intoxicated by his high life and self-confidence. Leary’s talents are somewhat wasted here, as he plays the disgruntled New York cop role by the numbers and doesn’t really stick out amidst the chemistry between Russo and Brosnan. It’s a blessing that the chemistry worked out so well, and it shows in their sensual sex scenes which aren’t graphic for the sake of being graphic, but instead are rather playful and natural. Dunaway makes a cameo appearance as Crown’s psychiatrist, discussing his phobia towards commitment and distrust towards others.

Although the pairing of Brosnan and Russo makes for a fitting couple, the film runs out of steam halfway in, as the predictable ups and downs of Banning and Crown’s relationship fail to elicit the same excitement as the taut action sequences. The endless banter between Banning and McCann (and Banning and Crown) feels like the dialogue acts as a placeholder in between the occasional moments of suspense. When the film lulls from time to time, these lackluster scenes can make it hard to appreciate the final product. It also doesn’t help that the happy ending of the film changes the themes of the original and is at odds with the characters. Thus, while the film tries to seamlessly weave sex, humor, and suspense, it’s not always up to the task.

The new release of The Thomas Crown Affair includes both Blu-ray and DVD at a discounted price, making it a fairly good bargain buy for those looking to give it a shot. Sadly, the release is also light on any kind of extra features. The good news is the high-definition transfer on the Blu-ray looks crisp and Bill Conti’s score simply shines in lossless audio. It’s only fitting that a film set within the affluent life be seen in 1080p, and the exotic scenes benefit greatly from it. The sole bonus feature is an audio commentary track by McTiernan on the DVD, so there isn’t much to entice those who already own the DVD other than seeing it in HD. The bottom line is unless you really love the film, you probably won’t be rushing to upgrade.

Out of all of Brosnan’s between-Bond films, The Thomas Crown Affair definitely ranks up there among the best. Unfortunately that doesn’t say too much, and despite early promise and a lot of energy, the film doesn’t come together quite as well as expected. Even with a mediocre screenplay and a predictable narrative, performances by Brosnan and Russo are kinetic and McTiernan’s suspense sequences are impressive enough to warrant a viewing. Since the film’s successful box office release, there have been periodic rumors of a sequel that apparently is still in development. It just makes you wonder how they are going to pull off suspense and sex now that Russo and Brosnan are both 56.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/124207-the-thomas-crown-affair/