John McTiernan’s supremely entertaining and exceedingly stylish remake of The Thomas Crown Affair is a film that I saw multiple times in the theater, and absolutely love revisiting multiple times per year. I remember seeing this picture with my then-girlfriend-now-wife back in 1999. and the zest and sizzle that this film emits never ceases to amaze me. Pierce Brosnan was icy-suave perfection in the title role and Rene Russo was real-woman sexy in ways that Hollywood actresses rarely achieve; what a ridiculous run of movies she had in the 90’s. Brosnan and Russo shared tremendous on-screen chemistry in this glamorous, high-end romance, with Pierce looking lethal in his finely tailored suits, and Rene never more beautiful on-screen than she was here, with a wardrobe to die for and hair/make-up design that took her already wonderful physical attributes to the upper stratosphere. This is a movie about surfaces, and how attractive people are drawn to each other thru the thrill of the chase, always on the prowl, always primal, and always ready to pounce.
At the time, their much-buzzed-about sex scenes became a public talking point; in retrospect, it’s a further reminder of how crass on-screen lovemaking has become, as what’s shown in The Thomas Crown Affair is steamy without ever being needless. And on a visual level, the film is just marvelous. The simplest of scenes are made to be extravagant by Tom Priestley’s muscular widescreen cinematography, with various shots that are souped-up to the max, and which absolutely pop on Blu-ray. The terrific finale with all of the lookalikes in bowler hats with Sinnerman on the soundtrack is the film’s final ace up its sleeve, and the tempo that McTiernan and editor John Wright set during this sequence is positively electric. There can be no debating that McTiernan’s visual style was one of the most influential when his career was in full swing, as he always brought a big-budget luster to all of his work, which was all stylish in its time but still holds up and never feels dated. Especially this movie.
The Thomas Crown Affair also has a stellar supporting cast including Denis Leary (so awesome here!), Fritz Weaver, Frankie Faison, Ben Gazzara, Mark Margolis, and Faye Dunaway, slyly cast as Brosnan’s therapist in a sultry, wink-wink performance that never felt tacky due to her legendary ability to hold the camera’s attention. Leslie Dixon and Kurt Wimmer’s screenplay was a perfect blend of character dynamics, action, suspense, and adult sexuality, with McTiernan no doubt bringing his own ideas into the mix, while Bill Conti’s jazzy and energetic musical score keeps the film’s pulse moving at an elegant pace. The Thomas Crown Affair hums along like a fine-tuned luxury ride, and many people (including myself) find it superior to Norman Jewison’s 1968 original, which is a totally fine piece of entertainment in many respects.
Review by Nick Clement