Saturday, March 24, 2007

THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR: Blu-ray (G2 Productions 1999) MGM Home Video

John McTiernan’s remake of The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) is a somewhat leaden excursion into what makes a millionaire businessman’s fetish for fine art tick. Crown (Pierce Brosnan) can have anything he wants. But that’s not the point. What matters more to Crown than complacency with his untold quantities of wealth is the art of the big swindle. To steal is a thrill. It’s exciting. It makes him feel alive.

After arranging to have his own painting stolen from New York’s Metropolitan Art Gallery, Crown is besought by curious speculations from police detective Michael McCann (Denis Leary) and insurance investigator, Catherine Banning (Rene Russo). McCann suspects foul play. So does Banning, but she ends her search for the truth by getting much too up close and personal with the man who may be on the cusp of indictment for insurance fraud.

Catherine and Crown begin an adulterous affair of the sweaty hot-blooded, all consuming and obsessive variety (think Fatal Attraction but without the bunny and with Brosnan as the homme fatale). Catherine's clinical investigator melts like butter as Crown ignites her senses with erotic rendezvous at some of his more 'out of the way' retreats. It's a backstage pass for Catherine - a chance to enter the world of a marginally disturbed thrill seeker who has every intention of leaving her flat and unfulfilled in the final reel. But here's the gracious whim of fate - or overwrought movie cliche (whichever you prefer). Crown has also decided that Cate's the gal for him. After seemingly disappearing forever from Catherine's life, he turns up in the seat next to her on a plane bound for the islands. 

The Thomas Crown Affair is stylish and slickly packaged entertainment...but that's about all. Visually, its a winner. Its narrative is more problematic. In the 1968 original, Steve McQueen’s Thomas Crown masterminds a bank job right under the nose of sultry insurance femme fatale, Vicki Anderson (Faye Dunaway). For McQueen’s Crown, the thrill of the heist is akin to an intellectual pursuit – how best to scoop the people who are supposed to be one step ahead of him. McQueen's Crown is full of male ego and a general contempt for humanity that ends with his dumping Vicki.

Brosnan’s Crown is a very different animal. He’s not in it for the intellectual stimulation, but for the adrenaline rush and visceral exhilaration that jolts him out of his daily boredom. McQueen’s Crown’s need for excitement is replaced in the remake with Brosnan’s Crown’s growing erotic passion for Banning and her reciprocated dependency on their sexual liaisons that compromise her position as an investigator.

What is particularly disappointing about McTiernan’s remake is how little passion there seems to be from either Brosnan or Russo in their respective roles. The chemistry is simply not there, despite McTiernan’s artfully shot seduction and sex scenes, done mostly in half shadow and varying stages of undress. In the end, what we get from this ‘affair’ is a stylish semi-complex thriller where the manipulation of sexual attachments becomes the central focus. 

If only Russo and Brosnan had been able to convince us they were hot for each other then the remake might have at least worked on this level. It doesn't. Leslie Dixon and Kurt Wimmer's screenplay gets bogged down in the cleverness of Crown's art house caper. The film shifts its focus back and forth from Catherine discovering Crown's fraud to what will happen to Catherine after Crown is done ravaging her body and her career. Tom Priestley Jr.'s edgy cinematography is a big plus for the movie - lush and enveloping, but with a sense of danger seeping from the corners of the film frame. 

MGM’s Blu-ray is impressive. We get a very clean and solid 1080p presentation. Colors pop. Fine detail abounds. Contrast levels are bang on. Film grain has been accurately reproduced. Good stuff here and quite unexpected given Fox's spotty record for mastering vintage titles in hi-def. The audio is 5.1 DTS and quite aggressive at times. Good spatial spread. Fox is up to their old tricks again. No extras on the Blu-ray but we get a DVD copy of the movie that does have an audio commentary from the director. Question: who wants to waste their time watching a standard def DVD just to hear McTiernan's thoughts on the making of the film? Enough said. Bottom line: recommended. 

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



No comments: