Blu-ray Review: The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)

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For criminals who have eluded capture, you would assume that the last place on Earth they'd want to be – voluntarily – is shoulder-to-shoulder with NYPD's finest boys in blue at the local precinct. Of course, this isn't always the case as psychiatrists have revealed that some criminals – so ridiculously proud of having outsmarted the law (at least temporarily) – actually do volunteer to help on the cases for which they're responsible.

Yet when it comes to the sight of billionaire Thomas Crown (Pierce Brosnan) looking through the one-way glass of a police lineup to identify an art thief crew member, he's deemed least likely to have stolen a museum painting in broad daylight... by everyone, that is, aside from the woman who's not a cop, insurance investigator Catherine Banning (Rene Russo).

Instinctively setting her own sights on him from the get-go, no line-up required, Banning realizes that the man whom Denis Leary's cop feels is simply a “finance geek” is in fact a thrill junkie who takes his work as an acquisitions man far too literally, "acquiring" whatever he likes simply because it's far too dull to just purchase it.

Knowing the police won't be able to touch him without some serious evidence since Crown most likely has every top lawyer in the tri-state area on retainer, the brash, downright ballsy yet aggressively attractive Banning decides to use herself as billionaire date bait.

Unfortunately, she's cursed with a brassy obviously over-dyed coif cut at too many short angles and tough-as-nails mannerisms like chugging a can of soda and speaking German like she's in a WWII movie that's miles away from the softness, beauty and light of Russo in everything else.

However, she's still the perfect match for Brosnan and the actor who also produced, swiftly takes the bait. This is particularly obvious in a Basic Instinct like moment when Banning goes in for the kill in a scandalous see-through dress that leaves only the morning after to the imagination.

In Die Hard director John McTiernan's remake of Norman Jewison's 1968 classic with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway (who takes part in a cameo here), he replaces his action hero stunts with a series of sexual escapades that try to rival Adrian Lyne's work for their frankly gladiator style, over-the-top erotic aerobics, moving from romantic to “do they need a chiropractor?” in two seconds flat.

In addition to how excessive the unsexy sex is, we are also surprised by how kitchen tap-water cool the chemistry between the leads is as well as Russo has more sparks with Leary than the smug, self-satisfied Brosnan who is a little too much in James Bond mode to keep us interested.

Nonetheless, the overall effect of the work as a heist movie and intellectual caper is highly sophisticated and exceptionally well executed in all production departments.

From Bill Conti's ingenious stage-setting score of hand claps and tap shoe clacks likening some of Brosnan's major scores such as the opening heist and a brilliant sequence involving bowler hats to a perfectly executed dance to the pulsating cinematography that showcases the wealthy jet-setting lifestyle of Crown, the film looks as rich as our lead character all around.

While it's that rare heist movie that keeps your brain engaged, it does keep your emotions somewhat in check, making us realize that although Crown can fool the cops and steal a Monet that an international investigator is determined to track down, he still cannot manage to steal or even buy our hearts with fine art or money.

Gorgeous filmmaking that can't mask a screenplay and chemistry that's not quite as golden as the frames in New York museums, while there's a few good surprises and overall, you're never short of entertainment, most of the time you feel like you were one of the other uninvolved guys from the police line-up who ends up trying to see everything through a one-way mirror pointing the wrong direction.

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FTC Disclosure:
Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.