It’s a sad reason to be writing this way; it’s a sad article to write for anyone but even more so with a man who took his own life for reasons currently unknown. Tony Scott is a legend in the filmmaking business and he influenced more than just a generation and a genre but the way films were made in general.
He was the master of the blockbuster coming out with Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, True Romance and other classics. As his career developed and his name was further cemented as a safe pair of hands his work became more experimental, bolder and more daring. All you need to do is watch his latest few releases to see he was a man with a vision, one that blockbusters will now sadly miss.
When any filmmaker passes away, it’s difficult to accept but Tony Scott was far from done with the business with a few more directorial films lined-up and even more which had his name attached to as producer. It wasn’t long ago that Top Gun was confirmed for a sequel but hopefully that idea remains a pipe-dream and will be shelved. A man who was coming into his prime has sadly been taken away through his choice and with no confirmed reason why yet is still a haunting and sad premise. A man who inspired so many and entertained more will no longer get a chance to continue to do so. He truly is a loss.
His work was varied and that is a strong-point of any director but his great accomplishment was his signature remained on all of them. Though each film may share a similar topic – action, his strength – they all had different stories and unique direction while still remaining to be his work. In fact, his greatest strength was not just creating great action but capturing it well enough for you to feel the action, to feel the adrenaline, to feel the burn. What he accomplished was blood pumping and it filled you with thrills. There are iconic scenes in almost all of his films and those which will linger. They are eternal and immortal like his inspiration.
Where better than to start with his first mainstream release? The Hunger was lamented when it was released and heavily criticised for its overt sexualisation and billowing curtains – the latter being a legitimate claim as they are everywhere. On reflection, it is highly creative and though it is blatantly ‘80s in style, Scott has managed to intertwine gothic themes to show the immortalisation of the revamped vampire characters. It is a patiently-paced, artsy character piece which at times looks like a Bonnie Tyler video but is bold – especially for a first-time director. A risk to be so bold with such a graphic script first-time around but nevertheless he pulled it off as it has now become a cult classic. It may be the original Tony Scott piece. Tony Scott originally received Flashdance to work but traded scripts because he cited he could do nothing with it; curiosity still claws at what a Tony Scott Flashdance would’ve been like.
The Hunger unfortunately set Tony Scott back, after being heavily-criticised and poorly received but there was a man with a belief in him: Jerry Bruckheimer. Tony Scott went back to directing adverts and did one of the most famous commercials that ended up inspiring one of the biggest grossing blockbusters. The commercial was a Saab racing against a fighter jet and you can see where this is going. How peculiar that an advert would inspire Top Gun when it is such a massive film. This was a defining film of a decade with it managing to sum up the ‘80s and inspire the future blockbusters. It was a boundary breaking groundbreaker that shook up a stagnant and rather cheesy decade and yet it still held the same philosophy as others. It’s a mouth-open-brain-off entertainment flick that is utterly rewatchable; the cornerstone of Scott’s work.
Now that Top Gun had taken off and taken such a high gross, Jerry Bruckheimer had faith in Scott to carry a franchise on his back now and gave him the job of making Axel Foley likeable and enjoyable for round two of Beverly Hills Cop. Sequels are always harder to do and it must be even harder when it wasn’t originally your idea. In a way, you have to keep style elements from the other film(s) to keep some consistency within the series and implementing another person’s style into your own can be difficult but Scott managed to pull it off. The sequel may be less well received by some but it has moments better than the original and it is highly entertaining with Murphy reprising his role identically. Even with this being someone else’s piece it has his signature on it with the stylish art shots interspersed in this action-comedy. The action scenes are brilliantly done again showing that he can raise adrenaline and he can do it for real and make the audience feel a part of it.
The ‘90s became his decade with the release of four classics and three other iffy films. In this time he found what will be an ideal partnership between him and Denzel Washington who would become a frequent collaborator and a great one at that. Days of Thunder and Revenge probably weren’t the ideal way to bring in the decade but the following release of The Last Boy Scout is a film that epitomises action-comedy. It manages to encapsulate the genre so well by being utterly ludicrous but massively enjoyable and a film which doesn’t seem to stagnate. A possible reason for this could be that Shane Black worked on the script who remains an underrated cog in the filmmaking machine – with him being given the directing duties of Iron Man 3, this could all change.
The film of his career could be True Romance, the film that was written and sold on by Quentin Tarantino to finance Reservoir Dogs. The orchestrator was chosen to be Tony Scott who Tarantino sold it to directly and what was created is arguably his greatest film. In it there’s a cast to die for, immaculate writing – dialogue and story-wise, style, pace and gripping, thrilling entertainment. It has a collection of genres throwing them together to create a hyper-stylish fast-paced flick with loveable anti-heroes that will do anything for love in their paradisiacal and fantastical world where all they need is each other. It’s an idealistic and romantic view for a couple of people trying to sell cocaine from her pimp that shouldn’t measure up but does. It’s carefully constructed with a maniacal, frantic pace that is gripping from beginning to end.
The beginning of a two duos was with Crimson Tide where he teams up for his first collaboration with Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman who would feature in his films again. It’s a shame Hackman retired from acting in 2004 as he could have and probably would have featured in a few other Scott vehicles. The idea of Washington vs Hackman makes this a worthwhile action flick with a soundtrack to boot. Gene Hackman would return in his 1998 conspiracy thriller Enemy of the State where he teams up with Will Smith in a film that is lengthy but with a constant pace that the time flies by as it twists and turns at high speed. It’s a paranoia inducing film that lingers in your mind making you sketchy to use your phone or even speak less than timidly. It’s energetic, kinetic and magnetic, bringing you into this nervous, propaganda filled world. He makes it real with not only the action scenes dragging you in but the idea that it could have been you.
The start of the noughties has Scott return to working with Brad Pitt alongside Robert Redford in the 2001 thriller Spy Game. It may not be his greatest film but it still has something that can hold and grip you like many of his other films. 2005’s Domino may be a bit problematic in its story and his weak link in a strong and steady decade with these two being the only ones to slightly complain about and they’re not even that bad which surely says how talented he was. Spy Game is better than Domino, it has better acting, writing and action and could be one of his more underrated films.
2004 brought us arguably one of his best films. Man on Fire sees him pair up with Denzel Washington yet again and puts him in the middle of Mexico City where the former assassin now bodyguard swears to retrieve a kidnapped Dakota Fanning by any means necessary. It may be an action film but it has heart and with Denzel being fantastic as the emotionally tormented bodyguard and it resonates through you. These people did an abhorrent thing by kidnapping this poor little girl and he may seem apathetic on his journey to her but with every step closer, his emotions charge up and you feel this connection to him. His fervent pursuit is fuelled by emotions that you’ll soon share. This film is arguably one of his best and you only have to watch it to see why and late on his career it’s part experimental too showing his foothold in Hollywood.
His experiments continue in 2006 in yet another pairing with Denzel Washington in underrated sci-fi Déjà Vu. The sci-fi is refreshing with an interesting take on an unoriginal idea and the storyline is far from clear-cut with it being about the murder of a woman who leads to the terrorist act of a ferry filled with people being blown up in New Orleans. With this time folding idea where it plays it in real time but only days later leads him to not only feel an obligation to stop the bombing but the murder of the woman too as he falls hopelessly in love with her. What unravels is a thrilling, physics bending, mind-melter that concludes in a wave of emotions. You can’t go wrong with this film nor this director.
The bravery of Tony Scott to remake The Taking of Pelham 123 with Denzel Washington and John Travolta was a bold decision but it is one that was really successful and arguably surpassing the original. It unfortunately didn’t perform as expected nor as deserved at the cinema. Now what we’re left with is the unfortunate swansong of a director who was brimming with ideas, films in the making and actors praising working with him. Unstoppable was a grand idea of a true story – exaggerated slightly for dramatic effect – which many wrote off as ludicrous but he stuck to his guns summoning a great cast and creating a suspense-filled adrenaline ride on a runaway train.
The irony is Tony Scott was unstoppable. He had a catalogue of work to fulfil as he had works to direct and produce and now it’s all seemingly gone. It’s a bizarre feeling knowing it’s all over, that the Tony Scott era has ended. No longer will there be a film which manages to bring you into the action by using reality and not computer generating it. By being such a big name that they can lay down the law and say it’s done this way or it won’t be as effective and not worth it. It’s a shame and we all mourn for his family and friends’ loss. We mourn too the loss that cinema has now suffered too. He inspired many and entertained more. With the carnage he created in film, may he now rest in peace.
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