MovieBob - Intermission
Remembering Tony Scott - Part I

Bob "MovieBob" Chipman | 24 Aug 2012 16:00
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It's been years since I've watched Revenge, a thriller with Kevin Costner as an Air Force vet taking revenge (duh) on an aristocrat (Anthony Quinn) who ruined his life and left him for dead as payback for having an affair with his (Quinn's) wife. I remember liking it, at least.

For what it's worth, Roger Ebert opined that it "combines the slick, high-tension filmmaking fashion of today with the values and sexual stereotyping of yesterday. It's such a good job of salesmanship that you have to stop and remind yourself you don't want any." Its subsequent reputation has become much more positive.

Days Of Thunder

Scott reunited with Tom Cruise for the biggest movie (at the time) to featuring the gradually-mainstreaming sport of NASCAR racing. It feels a little cheap to call it "Top Gun but with cars," but it really kind of is.

Cruise plays an open-wheel racer recruited into NASCAR who only "gets" the sport once he's paired with a wizened mentor in the form of Robert Duvall. The film is oddly structured and melodramatic (Cruise clashes with a rival, then becomes his pal as they both recover from injuries, then they work together to best a second rival later on) but Scott's direction and Cruise's typical intensity make the racing sequences more interesting than a succession of left-hand turns have any right to be.

The Last Boy Scout

This one has been harshly criticized for its perceived misogyny and for the fact that Scott seems to be doing something like an homage to his own work, but it's a resoundingly solid "guy" movie that pairs 80s action-gloss with the emerging cynicism of the 90s.

Bruce Willis is a private eye who teams with a former NFL player (Damon Wayans) to ferret out a conspiracy involving sports-fixing, drugs and citywide corruption. A lot of the plot (screenplay by the great Shane Black, currently directing Iron Man 3) feels like a bunch of then-topical buzzwords ("Sports doping!" "PCP!") on an outing at the shooting range, but it looks great and the bitter comedic tone is a trip in the right mood.

True Romance
Quentin Tarantino made an early name for himself in Hollywood via a monologue
(linked in the Top Gun entry) about gay subtext in Scott's Top Gun, and here Scott directs the future heavy-hitter's first (intact) screenplay.

The film was a major conversation-piece among Gen-X film fans, largely because it's one of Scott's best but also likely because said fans identified heavily with Tarantino and Romance plays like his own wish-fulfillment fantasy. Christian Slater is a comic book store clerk who falls in love with a gold-hearted hooker and whose plan to run away with her to Hollywood is complicated by gangsters, crooked cops, an errant bag of cocaine and the ghost of Elvis.

Crimson Tide

This is often called Tony Scott's best film, and I find it pretty difficult to disagree. It's a stone-cold pop-drama masterpiece, a taut grownup thriller infused with the driving energy that characterized Scott's earlier "just for fun" entries, set to a pounding score by Hans Zimmer that's become one of the most popular "trailer music" pieces of all time.

The setup is simplicity itself. Gene Hackman is a nuclear submarine Captain whose subtle clash of wills with his new Executive Officer (Denzel Washington) boils over into a full-scale standoff when the seizure of nukes by Russian ultranationalists puts them in the position of having to decide whether or not to launch their own nukes in a preemptive strike. The Captain is an aging vet with a distinguished combat record backed by a stubborn and aggressive disposition; the XO is a highly-educated expert on tactics and military history (but with no combat experience) who takes a more cautious approach. When Hackman attempts to jump the gun (believing it to be the best decision) Washington arrests him and assumes command, causing the rest of the crew to choose up sides.

A big hit in its day and a perennial cable mainstay, Crimson Tide is easily the best movie you'll ever see about two men arguing tactical philosophy in a sub. It also brought the Scott/Tarantino connection back into play, as producer Jerry Bruckheimer allegedly paid Quentin a hefty sum to polish up portions of the screenplay where crewmembers argued over pop-culture minutiae.

Come back next week for Part 2.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

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