Tony Scott’s appeal as a film director snuck up on me. As a long time fan of ‘Blade Runner’, I was aware of Ridley Scott’s younger brother Tony Scott also being a director during the 1980s. I think I spent much of the 1980s disdainfully watching Tony Scott’s work and thinking, “he’s got the style but he’s still no Ridley Scott”.
What he seemed to do was these cheesy movies with Tom Cruise in them. Or the Beverly Hills Cop sequel. Or that rather strangely macho movie with Kevin Costner and Madeline Stowe, ‘Revenge’. For a long while he was this sort of gun for hire director, hiring out his style for these fairly ordinary Star Vehicle films.
It was around the time he did ‘The Last Boy Scout”, I reassessed how I felt about his film making. “The Last Boy Scout” was a raw knuckled punch of a movie that was as hard boiled as anything up to that time. From there, Tony Scott’s work got very interesting with films such as ‘True Romance’, ‘Crimson Tide’ and ‘Enemy of the State’. ‘Crimson Tide’ in particular was an eye-opener, and to this day it is one of the most astounding films about nuclear weapons protocols. If there is one film I would point to as a high point in Tony Scott’s career, it is ‘Crimson Tide’, which made ‘The Hunt for Red October’ look like the the work of a kindergartener.
His output in the 2000s was equally exciting, with a particular emphasis on notions of undecidability and a progressively fractured narrative style. ‘Domino’ and ‘Deja Vu’ are seriously under-rated films while ‘Spy Game’ and ‘Man on Fire’ are textbooks in suspense. The man made compelling movies that held your attention from start to finish. His work had tremendous style that echoed his brother’s visuals but in some ways went broader in scope. His action sequences were beautiful to behold.
Recently I was having a conversation with a few movie buffs and we were talking about the body of work of certain directors, and I had to point out that if you took Tony Scott’s career as a body of work, it might actually be just as important as his brother Ridley’s career. Certainly in box office clout, Tony may have outshone Ridley, but even racking up how many movies of interest may show that Tony was more consistent in his work. It’s a little like those discussions about Hall of Fame and baseball players – Ridley has the Peak value in ‘Alien’ and ‘Blade Runner’, but Tony has career value with all of his combined. Plus ‘Top Gun’ and ‘Days of Thunder’ to add as his box office hits.
The other thing that dawned on me was that with the exception of ‘Unstoppable’, I had seen all of his films, most of them at the cinema; and I couldn’t really pick a lemon. That’s an amazing career. I must have liked him a lot even when I thought of him as just this popcorn movie director. What we know now is that he was the ultimate popcorn movie director; brilliant and astounding, stylish and interesting. There aren’t that many directors like Tony Scott whose name can guarantee a good time at the movies like he did.
It’s a sad thing that he committed suicide. It’s a sad thing we won’t know how much more he had in the gas tank. Surely, he’ll be sorely missed by movie buffs around the world. He was a movie buff’s director through and through, and I can’t think of a higher praise.
Rest in Peace Tony Scott.