Thomas Crown Affair, The (US - BD RA)
Gabe revisits the jazzy heist adventures of Thomas Crown on Blu-ray disc...
Thomas Crown (Pierce Brosnan) is an incredibly successful,l and incredibly bored businessman. When not crashing expensive boats, or gambling extraordinary sums on single golf swings, he steals priceless paintings from the New York Museum of Art. Catherine Banning (Rene Russo), an insurance investigator, comes into town after Crown steals a particularly swank Monet, and joins forces with the NYPD to uncover the millionaire’s extra curricular activities. Crown takes a shine to Banning, and enjoys the challenge. The two embark on a shifty affair, much to the chagrin of Detective Michael McCann (Denis Leary).
It’s so easy to outright dismiss John McTiernan as a filmmaker these days. Roller Ball and Basic are both so bad it’s impossible to ignore the quality shift from the lofty heights of The Predator, Die Hard, or even Hunt for Red October and Die Hard with a Vengeance. These two films rather deservedly crammed the poor guy so far into the dark, dank bowels of director jail they’ve created the rather palpable illusion of five or six major directorial misfires. But somewhere in the back of my mind a little voice keeps reminding me of The Thomas Crown Affair, and I’m forced to re-examine my assumptions. I’m also forced to notice that McTiernan only directed those two offending films since 1999, and two films really isn’t enough to call a career off (though I’m never going to get what people see in The Thirteenth Warrior). As a brief aside, this diamond at the edge of the rough also causes me to briefly re-examine my opinions on Kurt Wimmer, who wrote the Thomas Crown Affair script before directing his own duo of derivative junk films (I don’t see what so many others see in that gunkata movie). On second thought I’m willing to explore giving McTiernan the benefit of the doubt, but I really hated Ultraviolet, so I think I’ll consider Thomas Crown Affair an exception to Wimmer’s rule for the sake of simplicity.
Thomas Crown Affair is so effortlessly, breezily and buoyantly entertaining it’s hard to find anything worth complaining about. It’d be very difficult to argue that the film is some kind of masterpiece, misunderstood or otherwise, but you’d have to be pretty hard-hearted to not experience some minor variety of bliss while watching it. McTiernan is at home in terms of his technical direction comfort factor. The popcorn quality and tone keeps him from dealing with anything other than his action, and leaves his actors to hone their characters. The old-fashion qualities of the story keep the director from experimenting too much with music video editing styles, and shaky cameras, something that has cursed his more recent films, and the light-hearted tone forces him to deal in more elegant brand of breathless action. The dialogue scenes are vintage McTiernan, and would fit perfectly into the first Die Hard, but the less violent, more majestic qualities stand apart from most of the director’s catalogue. There’s a wonderful tempo to the film, which is very musical even when Bill Conti’s eclectic score isn’t supporting it. The only elements that emerge as particularly dated or silly, I’m afraid, are the often celebrated sex scenes, which I hate to admit look and sound a little Skinemax ten years later.
The actors sit very comfortably in their roles, so comfortably they almost seem typecast, which is a little disappointing, but not really a problem. Brosnan, who was still enjoying massive success as James Bond, basically plays 007 without the bloodlust, and Rene Russo, fresh off the Lethal Weapon sequels, basically plays Lorna Cole…without the bloodlust. The actors definitely have palpable chemistry, which helps McTiernan deal with the more jovial romantic scenes that constantly threaten to drag the pace into the realms of the genuinely tedious, but there are few scenes that see them trying all that hard. Russo clearly had more to prove at the time, acts out the bigger arc, and gets the better crying scenes, but it is hard to underestimate Brosnan’s sleepwalking skills. The leads fit so well into the film, it’s rather painful to recall that the original Thomas Crown Affair miscast Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. One almost assumes the original must’ve been a Cary Grant/Kathrine Hepburn vehicle.
I frankly haven’t worked with enough Fox catalogue Blu-rays to have developed any real expectations. Tomas Crown Affair is probably not the best pace to start judging either, as this 2.35:1, 1080p transfer is pretty much right dab in the middle of average town in terms of overall quality. Details are impressive in comparison to the included DVD copy, specifically during the wider shots, especially the helicopter shots that establish Crown’s palacio estates. The close-up details are a little less consistent, but this is most likely the due to inconsistencies in filming styles and lenses. Occasionally one could count the pours on Russo’s face, while other times faces are rather softly represented. Colours are pretty consistent, and most often even-handed and natural, though some of the most extremely red walls of the museum dance with a bit of noise. The bigger problems are found in the inconsistent dirt levels. The film begins pretty grainy, then clears up, but never remains as clean as it is at its highest moments. Night scenes also feature a bit of a flicker in the lighter areas on occasion. Contrasting elements are also a little inconsistent, including a few minor fits of edge-enhancement. If it were a little sharper, and a little more consistent this might be a next to perfect transfer, but as is it’s certainly an upgrade from the muddy and occasionally noisy DVD transfer. Let’s not even talk about the Full Screen version.
Tomas Crown Affair comes to Blu-ray fitted with a fabulous DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The Bill Conti’s music is the major track standout, often sounding so perfect one gets the disconcerting feeling that the musicians are playing live in one’s living room. The dynamic changes in musical style and bombast come off perfectly with the appropriate LFE response, and the more ethereal moments are often sharply augmented with rear channel mixing, which is a rarity for the era. The dialogue and incidental frontal effects are unsurprisingly next to perfect, but the expressive rear channel work, and the directional mixing is actually better than expected. The track is most impressive, outside of the music, during the opening heist (helicopter), the brief sailing sequence (those waves are all over the room), and the glider scene (especially those cows after landing).
The Blu-ray is entirely bereft of extra features, but the included DVD, which is a straight catalogue copy, does include McTiernan’s director’s commentary. The track is informative enough, but in-keeping with the director’s normal commentating style is incredibly stale, and Johnny’s monotone threatens to put his audience to sleep at every turn.
Thomas Crown Affair is still a delightful little heist/romance, and the ending is as sweet a cherry as I remember. One might say the entire movie is just an incidental build up to the perfect little last act, and this is one of those rare cases where I don’t mind having my time wasted. It’s certainly one of the few filmic remakes that genuinely outshines its source material. The film’s first foray onto high definition disc is exciting enough in terms of A/V quality, though certainly not a jaw dropper, and the lack of extras is a little sad, unless you’re fan enough to sit through John McTiernan’s mind numbing commentary track in SD.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray's image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Release Date: 6th April 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, French and Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Director Commentary (on DVD copy)
Easter Egg: No
Director: John McTiernan
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo, Denis Leary
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy and Romance
Length: 113 minutes
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