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John McTiernan brings us the remake of the 1968 film of the same name, modernising the events to bring us a wonderful crime caper flick. Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo sizzle in much the same way as Faye Dunaway and Steve McQueen did in the original. Brosnan is the perfect choice to play billionaire Thomas Crown, who uses his powers of cunning to steal a priceless painting from a Manhattan museum in broad daylight. Enter Russo, who shows she’s still got it as insurance investigator Catherine Banning. What ensues is a fantastic game of cat and mouse between the two, with detective Michael McCann (Dennis Leary) running frantically behind.

Much has been said about the comparison between the two films, but this remake has for once forged its own original path, updating the events and characters to make the film much more interesting to today’s audience. The cinematography is outstanding, with the glorious locations and “arty” surroundings exploited to full effect. While 1968 had the sexually charged chess game as its calling card, the 1999 version really comes into its own with a fantastic heist sequence incorporating dozens of bowler hats & briefcases.

Bowler hats are officially back in fashion
Brosnan does his best impression of James Bond’s up-market cousin, but is still convincing in his role, as is Rene Russo who seems to enjoy some time away from fluff such as Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Video
The film is presented in 2.35:1 and is 16:9 enhanced, making the visuals very much on the stunning side. Blacks are as black as can be and the transfer holds up well to whatever is thrown at it, including a number of potentially dangerous lens flares. I wouldn’t call it reference quality, but it’s definitely not far off.

The animated menu is among one of the best I have seen to date, with the whole menu taking on the look of a revolving art gallery. As we move closer to each picture, they transform into various clips from the movie before changing back to a painting again. While it’s a little slow to load, the animated menu is very impressive and should be looked at to provide inspiration for upcoming discs.

Audio
The three audio tracks (English, Spanish & German) are all in 5.1. The sound is impressive, even though this film doesn’t really lend itself to very many audio effects that test out all six speakers. However, it’s in the soundtrack that the audio mix really takes off. Bill Conti (of Rocky fame) produced the score for the film while Sting’s “Windmills Of Your Mind” appears again as the title track for this film, having recorded the song for the original version. My favourite is Nina Simone’s “Sinner Man”, which is used during the heist sequence and makes it a truly worthwhile scene to watch (see my “Golden Scenes” article to find out more).

Tuxedo: $200, Rene Russo in a see-through dress: Priceless
Extras
The disc has been blessed with some quality extras, even though it’s not packed to the hilt. The Making Of A Masterpiece documentary is a step above the usual promotional fluff we see these days, comparing the two versions of the film quite adequately. However, there is probably not enough focus on the actual making of this version, with the comparisons weighing down what could have been an exceptional insight into what went on behind the scenes.

The Director’s Commentary is highly entertaining, even for the most casual fans of the film. McTiernan sheds some light on his filming techniques and other interesting pieces of information, including how he used a little grease to move a naked Russo and Brosnan along the kitchen table.

We also get Sting’s music video, the original trailer and a useful collector’s booklet, which adds weight to what we see in the documentary.

The doctors could do nothing to save Ken Done's artwork
Overall, the film is an interesting and visually stunning caper movie, with comparisons with the original version seemingly doing no harm to its effectiveness. While it’s not the most complex of stories, Director McTiernan has instilled enough of his originality into the film to make it a winner. While not a jam-packed feature edition, MGM have done a serviceable job in providing some quality extras for this release, one that I recommend to those who don’t mind a bit of cat and mouse every now and then.


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