Remakes are a fact of life. It might seem now more than ever that we are plagued with this reality, but it’s been true for a very long time. It’s not so new, as you might expect. Even the lauded Cecil B. Demille The Ten Commandments was a remake of his own silent 1923 film. They’ve existed almost as long as the movies themselves and will continue to exist for the foreseeable future. So, the question should be: Why should a particular film be remade? Often technology catches up with the content in a film. The ability to create on the screen something that was simply impossible originally is a legitimate reason to tackle an older film. Sometimes the movie is so powerful that it bears retelling for a new generation.
But then there are the reasons why a film should not be remade. There are some classics that simply should be off limits forever. Would anyone even dare attempt to remake The Godfather? There are those films that are just not worth being remade. How many versions of Piranha do we really need? Then there are the films that are remade in title only, like the 1999 version of The Thomas Crown Affair.
The original film featured Steve McQueen and Fay Dunaway in the staring roles. I’m not going to argue that the original was some kind of super classic, but it was a pretty well received film by all accounts. Now, I have a ton of respect for John McTiernan. The Die Hard films are one of my favorite amusement park rides of that era. But I have no idea why he decided to take on this material and then to change it so much. I expected that he might make it more of an action thriller, providing a new enough element to warrant a remake. Instead he kept the cat-and-mouse game of the leads and put them into considerably different circumstances. The result is a remake that maybe wasn’t in that good idea category.
Thomas Crown (Brosnan) is a wealthy man who buys and sells multi-million dollar companies like he was buying socks. He has a confident swagger and a belief that he’s entitled to whatever he might desire. What he desires is a Monet painting from the local museum. He plans a “perfect” heist and gets his hands on the painting. Detective McCann (Leary) is the cop charged with investigating the bold daylight robbery. But he’s not really the biggest of Crown’s troubles. That job belongs to insurance investigator Catherine Banning (Russo). Banning is, at first, determined to prove Crown pulled the job off and will bend any law or rule to recover the stolen painting. She’s not as interested in getting Crown convicted as she is in saving her company the payout, if the artwork is not recovered. She spends the time getting close to Crown in the hopes of getting him to slip up. Both know what the other is up to and are basically playing a rather uncrafty game of cat and mouse. Most of the movie is spent on a will she/won’t she turn Crown in, even if she catches him.
At the end of the film I heard my father-in-law remark that it was about as good a heist movie as he’s ever seen. Now you know why he’s not writing these reviews. I’m not even sure this film is even intended to be a heist movie at all. First of all, the heist is over and done with five minutes into the film. Don’t you watch these films to see all of the elaborate preparation and impressive close calls that go into the job? Then, of course, a good heist film needs a worthy adversary for the crook. You need that smart-as-a-tack cop who is always right at their heels. Finally, a good heist film must have some motivation for the job. It could be greed, or it could be pride. I’ve never seen a more motiveless crime in all my years going to the movies. There’s no “smart” cop on his heels, and Crown is never really in much danger of getting caught. If you agree with him, you might want to redefine for yourself exactly what a “heist” movie is all about. This film is all about the on and off relationship of the leads and the attempts at seduction on both sides. A fine film, if you like that sort of thing, but one of the best heist films of all time? Give me a break.
The Thomas Crown Affair is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 30 mbps. This one has catalog title written all over it. There are moments when you get everything you expect from a high definition release. There’s wonderful detail and very natural colors. There are also too many times when the picture goes quite noticeably soft. About the best example of the good side of the presentation occurs when the two fly away to some tropical paradise. The aerial images are quite spectacular. Face close-ups seem to go wrong, and unfortunately, there’s a lot of that here. Black levels are only average. Again, no huge complaints, but a very average overall image presentation.
The DTS-HD Master Audio sound pretty much does what it is intended to do. There’s a lot of contemplative dialog here. While you can always hear the dialog fine, the whole affair, pardon the pun, is flat most of the time. Your sub might as well be unplugged. Even the score sounds terribly canned and boring.
DVD copy of the film.
This is a pretty easy film to watch, and that’s about the best thing it has going for it. The leads are fine performers and make their characters believable enough to offer a good couple of hours of entertainment. But, in the end, the film lacks any kind of a punch or adrenaline rush, the very kinds of things that McTiernan is usually quite masterful with. The film never has you having to think too much, and I suspect that’s why people like my father-in-law loved it. If you haven’t seen it, give it a rent on some rainy Saturday afternoon. I mean, “What the hell else have we got to do?”