Paul: Tony Scott sadly passed away earlier this week and in memorial to him and his body of work, John and I have put our differences to one side and come up with our top five Tony Scott films. Often criticised for a style over substance approach to film making (especially by myself) it’s easy to forget that the man has made some truly great films. Putting aside political and personal film making Tony Scott set out to entertain and when he did it well, you would be hard pushed to find a more frenetic visual talent or more entertaining Hollywood director.
John: It’s true what they say about Tony Scott, he sure does have a distinctive style, most notably in his recent films with the sound of train horns permeating almost every scene, but always with interesting use of colour and ways of shooting scenes in an unconventional way. (If you want to see a perfect example of his style but don’t have the time for feature length, check out his short BMW film Beat the Devil – available on all good online video hosting websites.) But as Paul said, we’re here for his best work, and let’s face it; his later films weren’t a patch on his earlier films.
Paul: Using Badlands as an inspiration could have been a mistake but in the hands of Scott along with Tarantino on screen writing duty, this film is undoubtedly Scott’s finest work. This film often seems better known for the screen writer rather than the director. Whilst you can credit Tarantino with the characters, the set pieces and the visuals could only be Tony Scott. The frenetic style and pace of his visuals is rarely again used to such great effect as on display here. Truly a modern classic and it’s a tragic shame these two can’t work together again.
John: This is a perfect example of what happens when you let Tarantino write and someone else direct – a reimagining of the ancient story of two lovers battling to live happily ever after. This film is awesome for the soundtrack, comedic elements and the well written characters, all the way down to James Gandolfini playing a psycho hit man to Brad Pitt playing an innocent stoner clueless to the carnage going on around him. This is Tony Scott’s ability to bring together an ensemble cast and direct them into what the actors can do best – Christopher Walken beating on ex-cop Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman playing a mad-man gangster and Chris Penn and Tom Sizemore as cops trying to catch a break. This film is basically awesome and easily Tony Scott’s best work.
Man on Fire
John: Man on Fire is a tale of a man keeping his promise to protect an innocent girl, taking it to the extreme. Why in the top five? Scott again proves that he brings the best out of direction with Denzel Washington’s relentlessness in his character, and adds bags of style to film, all the way down to the way the subtitles pop up as the Mexicans speak Spanish. Added to this inventive ways of getting information from and killing bad guys, it makes for a good watch.
Paul: Here we have Scott’s first (and finest) foray into remake territory, casting Denzel Washington in the role of hard bitten body guard, assigned to protect the daughter of a wealthy business man. The film showed a subtler side to Scott’s filmmaking, the first hour is purely based around the building of Creasy’s relationship with the girl, it’s not until the second half does Scott do what he does best. The unrelenting violence that Creasy inflicts means so much more when delivered against the emotional back story. Visually this set a new bench mark for his work, ultra stylised and brutally effective. This is a hard hitting revenge tale that should not be missed.
John: This film can’t not be in the top five films. No matter what you may think of it, it has an enduring legacy that will not die, whether it be linked to Take My Breath Away, aviator style sunglasses or even students dressing as flight officers on a night out. It is the quintessential airplane action movie, bringing American patriotism to the fore, and showing once again that the Reds were useless at everything, while at the same time cementing Tom Cruise’s position in Hollywood royalty (not necessarily a good thing mind…).
Paul: There is not much to say about Top Gun that hasn’t been said, some love it others loathe it, I personally love it. It’s a film that single-handedly defined the 80s Hollywood blockbuster and has action scenes unrivalled 30 years later. The decision to shoot actual military air craft may have meant the film comes across like a Navy recruitment video but ultimately it looks stunning, nothing has topped the aerial scenes and it will be a number of years before anyone comes close. Factor in the soundtrack, discount the sex scenes and you have an unbelievably polished and highly entertaining piece of cinema. Forget The Hunger, this is Tony Scott’s first film in my eyes.
Paul: This marked the first time Scott collaborated with Denzel Washington and what a collaboration it turned out to be. The pairing of Washington and Gene Hackman mean that you rarely leave the edge of your seat in this gripping, intelligent and action packed submarine based thriller. It’s a shame Bruckheimer didn’t take note for his later projects that you can have action and brains in the same film. Tony Scott proved here that even in big budget 90s action cinema the two weren’t mutually exclusive.
John: A film set on (in?) a submarine can be nothing but tense, and with Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington at logger heads over whether or not to launch a nuclear attack on post-Soviet Russia, you’re in for a thrilling ride. Scott puts together a brilliant cast with a story about the ultimate stakes – to destroy or not destroy the world. Edge of the seat stuff all the way in an atmospheric and claustrophobic environment.
The Last Boy Scout
John: Top five because it’s Bruce Willis! Back with more one liners and a bad ass character, in a slick action film written by Shane Black. Tony Scott has no pretentions with this film – it’s not out to make a message or pull on heart strings – it’s a non-stop adrenaline ride through the L.A. underworld laced with good chemistry between Willis and Damon Wayans. Not perhaps one of Scott’s best received films critically, but definitely one of the most entertaining and fun to watch.
Paul: Whilst certainly not his best known work, this film is as good as anything he has released. This time round we see Scott working with Bruce Willis and script writer Shane Black, the results are entertaining as you would expect. Part action thriller, part hardboiled detective story, Willis nails the one liners, Scott delivers brilliant set pieces and ties the two elements together brilliantly. If you haven’t seen it then seek it out and you won’t be disappointed.