Tuesday, 27 September 2011

"The Thomas Crown Affair". A Review Of The 1999 Film Now Reissued On An 'All-Regions' BLU RAY by 20th Century Fox in 2011.


"…An Elegant Crime… A Worthy Opponent…"

*** THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE 'BLU RAY' VERSION ***

Armed with nothing more sinister than a plain croissant and a nondescript briefcase beneath his seat, billionaire Thomas Crown (Pierce Brosnan) sits in the Impressionist Gallery of New York’s Metropolitan Museum staring at "Noon: Rest From Work (After Millet)" by Vincent Van Gogh. Approaching from behind comes Bobby the Principal Security Guard (played by Michael Lombard) who then smiles at Crown. It pleases him to see one of the exhibits regular patrons sat in his usual place being no trouble to nobody. But then Bobby is curious...

Immediately to the right of Van Gogh’s 'haystacks' (as his immaculately dressed art-lover calls it) is a painting that would surely appeal to the 42-year old far more – Claude Monet’s "San Giorgio Maggiore At Dusk". But no, Thomas is unmoved. Bobby presses and tells him it’s worth a cool $100 million dollars. But again – Thomas is not impressed. Crown then sighs - and staring with great discipline at the Van Gogh immediately in front of him - he says, "It's nice Bobby. It is. But I like my haystacks…" The Security Guard smiles, shrugs his shoulders and walks away admiring Thomas Crown’s honesty.

A few hours later a 20th Century Greco Asian Horse arrives in a pallet downstairs instead of an Etruscan Sarcophagus – a 'disparity' perhaps? Or perhaps Bobby needs to go to character assessment classes more often…

In 1998 Pierce Brosnan and his production company "Irish Dreamtime" wisely decided to remake the sophisticated 1969 playboy heist movie "The Thomas Crown Affair" which originally starred Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway - cleverly giving Dunaway the part of Crown’s therapist in the new version. It was a genius move. Already beginning to be straight-jacketed by Bond, Brosnan showed that not only could he pull off a leading man in another film, but he could do it with more style and panache than most of Hollywood’s elite. Remake or no - the result was a critical and commercial winner that sizzled with both sex and sexiness.

Containing both of these - and a great deal more – up steps the movie’s other secret weapon – actress Rene Russo playing a super-savvy Insurance Agent called Catherine Banning. The chemistry between her and Brosnan was so sensational it set tongues wagging globally (“Will you get me? Oh I hope so…”). But with all of this loaded dialogue - promptly followed by sweaty shenanigans on the marble staircase - the movie desperately needed some serious grounding and the occasional laugh. For this they added in the wonderful Denis Leary as Detective Michael McCann (…”some of these broads are wearing my salary…”) and Frankie Faison as his partner Detective Paretti. Their sparring with the smarter Russo character (some of her dialogue titles this review) is magical and so deftly handled.

Also blessed with a brilliantly-written and cleverly plotted script by Lesley Dixon and Kurt Wilmer, great original music by Bill Conti and expert Direction by John McTiernan – "The Thomas Crown Affair" was quite rightly hailed as a fantastic piece of cinema.

Which brings us to this BLU RAY reissue. Its default aspect is 2.35:1 (bars on the top and bottom), but even stretched to full screen – it holds its shape, is detailed and clean. I’m also thrilled to say that the picture upgrade is obvious even as the credits roll. It never looks anything less than great and at times (close-ups of suits, faces in restaurants, her slinky gowns) it looks beautiful. Even in the Museum Basement sequences - which are dark and faintly lit – the print is still superbly clear.

Niggles – the Blu Ray is an American-only issue at the moment, but it is an 'all regions' disc – which means it plays on all players. Some have found that this isn’t the case, but it did on my mine without any fuss whatsoever – so check your machine. The other major let down is the complete absence of any extras – not even a trailer. But - by way of small consolation – the disc can be had for less than a tenner…

To sum up - 12-years haven't diminished the entertainment value of this fantastic remake one jot. And despite the disappointing lack of extras – the truly superb upgrade in picture quality and reasonable price - should convince fans and newcomers alike to put this Blu Ray repurchase high on their wish list. Great stuff.

I’m off now to capsize my yacht and run off with that moll from the insurance company with the M25 legs and Mick Jagger lips (as you do)…

BLU RAY Specifications:
Picture: 2.35:1 Aspect ratio
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Subtitles: English for Hard-Of Hearing, Spanish and French

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