Monday, August 20, 2012

Tony Scott, 1944-2012, Director

The best compliment I think you can pay a director is that his work is entertaining and unpretentious. Over a 30 plus year career, Tony Scott was certainly that. He was the king of the Hollywood action picture that didn't assume its audience were barely sentient beings. He made movies for adults that liked spectacle. 

Tony Scott 1944-2012

Perhaps his biggest hit was the decade defining Top Gun which launched the career of Tom Cruise, its tale of  overheated fighter pilots acting as the best recruiting poster the U.S. military ever had. It may not have been to everyone's taste but the numbers didn't lie. For Tony, they never did. His work was always commercially viable. He followed Top Gun with the likes of Beverly Hills Cop II and The Last Boy Scout, the latter of which stands out today as being one of the last of the 80's style action pictures replete with excess violence, profanity and some great one liners. They were of their time and Tony was the master:

It was not his best work however, that was to come later on with his adaptation of an early Quentin Tarantino script in 1993's True Romance. Tarantino's script is a heady mix of road movie, love story and crime drama. He combined this with a great cast including James Gandolfini, Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper. The famous scene between the latter two still stands today as one of the greats, if you haven't seen it yet you really should watch the below:

He followed this with Crimson Tide and Enemy of the State, both in collaboration with the great Gene Hackman. The first was an old school thriller about the paranoia aboard a submarine at war, a very tightly made film you can feel the sweat dripping off the characters deep beneath the ocean. The second was equally about paranoia, this time to do with the encroachment of the state on civil liberties with the growth of information technology. Both were big hits in their day and have stood the test of time.

2001's Spy Game is a much overlooked film, it was direct to video on this side of the Atlantic which is a shame and surprising given the combination of Robert Redford and Brad Pitt. It tells a story of a friendship over the course of the cold war amongst two CIA spies. The Daily Flick review is here.

He hadn't slowed down as a director over recent years and was still turning out enjoyable cinema. 2004's Man on Fire will I think be seen as a minor classic in years to come. It is exactly the kind of revenge thriller that has like Peckinpah's Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia become lauded in recent years. A dark and disturbing look at vengeance on the streets of Mexico City, it drips with character and moves to the beat of the drug trade which fuels the violence in that country.

Tony's last completed film, 2010's Unstoppable was again a collaboration with Denzel Washington, this time a very old school tale of a runaway train based on a true story. It was a simple, highly entertaining thriller that didn't hang around long enough to irritate. That seems to be the most one can hope for from a studio blockbuster any more. It is a true shame that we won't have any more Tony Scott films.

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