By Marc Bernardin
January 11, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

So you want to be a master thief? You’ve heard about the perks — a life of danger, adrenaline, and intrigue; all the money you can spend; all the freedom you could want; no schedule to keep but your own; no boss; no dress code; no taxes.

But it’s not just a matter of wanting, and, unfortunately for those seeking illegal enlightenment, there are no college classes and no correspondence courses. To gain an insight into what it takes to be one of the rare few who can live life on their own terms, we suggest you look to the latest heist film from director John McTiernan (”The Hunt for Red October,” ”Die Hard”), The Thomas Crown Affair. As one of Hollywood’s most respected ”intelligent” action filmmakers — hell, for years every other movie was described as ”Die Hard in a…” — he’s in a unique position to reveal just what you’ll need to be a modern man of mischief.

Have an Accent It’s amazing how much respect people will give you if you’ve got even a whiff of a foreign demeanor. It works for Pierce Brosnan in the new-to-video ”The Thomas Crown Affair.” Sure, he’s a billionaire financier who can crush the average mortal with his checkbook, but it’s the Irish/British brogue that makes this moonlighting art thief so imposing.

Have a GQ-Ready Wardrobe Nothing drives cops crazier than a sharp-dressed man. Why? Because they figure that anyone who’s got enough money to have merchants come to his skyscraper and measure him for hand-tailored suits, like Thomas Crown, would have no reason to commit grand theft anything.

Have a Fabulous Objective If you’re going to be a master thief, steal something masterful. Crown had his eye on a $100 million Monet.

Have a Topflight Adversary If, as they say, you can judge a person by his enemies, then you can’t really be a class act without a serious hound on your tail. Who would Robin Hood be without the Sheriff of Nottingham hot on his heels? Of course, Crown made the vital mistake of falling in love with his pursuer, the smug, fashionable Catherine Banning (Rene Russo), an insurance investigator who shared his love of the good life. Sure, if there were no opponents, a life of crime would be a much easier life indeed, but there’s no fun where there’s no chase.