The Thomas Crown Affair

While there’s a significant amount of chemistry between its leads, The Thomas Crown Affair only occasionally hits its stride.

The Thomas Crown Affair

Director: John McTiernan
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo, Denis Leary
Distributor: MGM
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Release Date: 2010-04-06

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.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.