Ahoy there, mateys! Solemn news today.
If the early newspaper accounts are to be believed, Tony Scott took his own life at around noon on Sunday by leaping from a bridge in Los Angeles harbor.
In honor of his passing, Pontius proudly provides his perspective on a productive panoply of Mr. Scott’s greatest moving pictures.
Actually, it’s not that simple. Tony Scott directed an awful load of rubbish in his time. After an early foray into vacuous vampire erotica with The Hunger, Scott rose to prominence directing Top Gun. You may remember Top Gun fondly, but it hasn’t aged well. If you watched it today it would unlikely to take your breath away.
Scott followed up the huge commercial success of Top Gun with three bloody dreadful flicks. Beverly Hills Cop II has none of the surprise or wit of the first movie. It’s a noisy and ugly film with Brigitte Nielsen as the main villain. Revenge is Kevin Costner’s worst ever movie. Let that settle for a bit. The worst movie ever with Kevin Costner in it. The final release of this trilogy of travesties was Days Of Thunder. Scott himself admitted it was difficult to find the drama in watching cars go round in circles. He was not wrong. Days Of Thunder is unburdened by any sense of dramatic tension.
How does someone bounce back after directing such awful multiplex fodder? Scott’s next three movies were the best movies he directed. Each one stands up today as near-perfect paragons of motion picture production. Ladies and gentle-pirates, I give you The Legacy of Tony Scott:
The Last Boy Scout (1991)
Underseen on release, underrated ever since, The Last Boy Scout is a superb action movie with the quintessential Bruce Willis performance at its heart. Willis plays Joe Hallenbeck a former secret service agent who is fired for punching out the VIP he was supposed to be protecting. Hallenbeck is morose, miserable and loyal. How loyal? He agrees to protect a stripper (Halle Berry) to honor his late partner who was sleeping with his wife. That’s how loyal. Along the way Hallenbeck hooks up with Damian Wayans’s character, a disgraced former NFL quarterback and they take down the bad guys. Joe Hallenbeck is one of the great reluctant movie badasses. The Last Boy Scout is a fantastic movie.
True Romance (1993)
True Romance is based on an early script from Quentin Tarantino. It predates the global success of Pulp Fiction by a full year and no one knew quite what to make if it when it was released. Christian Slater plays a comic-store clerk named Clarence. Patricia Arquette is his moll. Theirs is a true romance. The movie is littered with priceless performances – Gary Oldman as a Rastafarian druglord, Brad Pitt as a stoner roommate, Dennis Hopper as Clarence’s dad, Clifford and Christopher Walken doing his usual shtick. True Romance is all kinds of crazy, but it’s also bags of fun.
Crimson Tide (1995)
Crimson Tide is a wonderfully old-fashioned movie. Gene Hackman is the grizzled captain of a nuclear submarine. Denzel Washington is his executive officer. When orders to launch a nuclear attack arrive incomplete, Washington refuses to give the necessary assent to Hackman to carry out the order. Power shifts from the old to the young and back again. No mention is made of race, but Washington’s isolation is emphasized by his being the only officer of color on board. It’s a tremendously exciting movie with two terrific performances from two experienced movie stars. Tony Scott directed Denzel Washington in four more movies after this one, but none of them are as good.
Tony Scott, 1944-2012, rest in peace.