Our tribute to Tony Scott and five favorite movies from the late director

It’s less than 24 hrs since I heard the news of Tony Scott’s passing and I still can’t believe what I had heard. The 68-year-old director leaped off the L.A. County’s Vincent Thomas Bridge into the Los Angeles Harbor Sunday night, his black Toyota Prius with his suicide note still parked nearby. I read hours later that he had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain cancer. It’s such a tragic news… my heart is heavy that someone we thought had everything was so bereft of hope to be driven to such an extreme decision, leaving behind his wife and twin young sons. I feel for the family and my prayers go out to them, including his brother and business partner, Sir Ridley. Of all the tweets I saw, I thought this one from director Duncan Jones resonated with me most. Apparently Jones once worked for Mr. Scott in his early career:

I guess I’ve always grown up with Tony Scott’s films, even though I wasn’t too enthusiastic about his newer ones. I think the last film of his I saw was The Taking of Pelham 123 which was actually pretty good, but not all that memorable. But it’s no doubt he’s a talented director who’s got his own style and a penchant for dynamic action flicks. Growing up, TOP GUN was the coolest thing and I was somewhat looking forward to the sequel starring the now megastar Tom Cruise that Scott himself would direct.

So in his memory, Ted and I list our five picks of films we like most from the late British director. [Please don’t reprimand me for not including True Romance or Crimson Tide, I’m afraid I have not seen those two yet]

RUTH’s PICKS

1. Spy Game (2001)

One of our friends actually gave his DVD to us and I’m lad he did as I don’t mind watching this one again. It’s perhaps one of my favorite movies with Brad Pitt, though I’m more impressed with the older Pitt look-a-like Robert Redford who plays his spy mentor. It’s perhaps Scott’s most understated work in his resume, it doesn’t have as many explosions or car chases like a typical Bond movie, but still offers a great deal of espionage suspense that I always enjoy. In a way, it’s like the recent Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in the way it depicted the realistic espionage universe, but with a much more swift pacing. It’s the kind of smart thriller that gets overlooked at the box office as it’s not the ‘bombastic’ kind.

2. Top Gun (1986)

As a kid growing up in the 80s, this was an essential action flick that always brings back so many memories. Surely all the girls in my junior high had a crush on Tom Cruise, and what girl doesn’t like men in uniform? Truth be told, I still have no idea what this movie was really about, but who cares. We watched this for the boys and those fun jet flying sequences. The angst, the romance, the motorcycle ride through the sunset, etc., yeah they’re all cheese, but it was GOOD cheese, and back in the day I thought this movie was the coolest thing ever. No doubt this will be the movie he’s best remembered for.

To this day, I still love Berlin’s ‘Take My Breath Away,‘ though now it’ll be bittersweet as this song was played when I heard the news about Tony Scott’s death 😦

3. Enemy of the State (1998)

I quite enjoyed this one when I saw it on the big screen, it could be one of my favorite Will Smith’s movies. There’s plenty of suspense going on in this conspiracy thriller and we’ve got a great, scene-stealing performance from Gene Hackman. Instead of his usual car chases, this movie is full of foot chases, reminds me a bit of Hackman’s classic thriller The French Connection at times. There are also interesting camera angles and showing the action through a surveillance camera that gives it an edge. Scott’s kinetic energy is used to great effect in this one. Smith certainly is one of those actors who looks good running.

4. Beat The Devil – short (2002)

As I’ve mentioned in my Clive Owen post, I LOVE the BMW short films. This one with James Brown and Gary Oldman is one of the best and has Scott’s frenetic signature all over it. Guns, fast cars, with the godfather of soul, not to mention Machete er I mean Danny Trejo behind the wheel opposite The Driver. In just 10 minutes, we’ve got an electrifying drag race through the Las Vegas strip and a huge explosion involving a train. Easily the craziest and most bizarre 10-minute movie I’ve seen, but it sure was fun! Check it out below if you haven’t seen it:

 

5. Deja Vu (2006)

The third collaboration of Scott and Denzel Washington is quite a thrill ride. It’s a sci-fi thriller involving some sort of time travel, but the look of the movie isn’t actually sci-fi-ish. It seems that Scott had a penchant for setting his thriller in a public transportation, this time it takes place mostly on a ferry. Denzel and Val Kilmer are the good guys going opposite Jim Caviezel, in a quietly menacing role just a couple of years after playing Jesus Christ in The Passion of the Christ. Though the plot is hard to comprehend at times, I remember enjoying this one and was largely amused by it.

. . .

TED’s PICKS

Even though I included him on my list of hack directors in Hollywood, I still believe he’s very talented, just that his last few films; he didn’t really want to tell a good story. He prefer to just show off this manic style of editing and over the top action sequences. With that said, Tony Scott made some really great films early in his career. Here are my favorites of his:

1. True Romance (1993)

This film’s one of my favorite of the 90s, it was written by then unknown Quentin Tarantino and yes it’s violent. In fact, thanks to this movie most of the action films today are rated PG-13; I won’t go into details but Google Dan Quayle and this film and you’ll understand why. The film opened in the fall of 1993, it tanked at the box office but it became sort of a cult since. I was still in high school then and saw it with my buddies in theater, I fell in love with the film and have lost count on many times I’ve watched it.

2. Crimson Tide (1995)

This was the first collaboration between Scott and Washington, they later worked together in 4 more films. I thought this was the best film of 1995 and it’s a shame the Oscar voters ignored it. The performances by Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman were spectacular. I know most people dismissed it because it was a Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer production, so they thought it was just a mindless action film. Well the film hardly had any action and it was mostly the intense performances by the leads that made the film so good.

A little fact about this film, it was Disney’s first big budgeted live action film, it was huge gamble but it paid off for the studio. After this film came out, they produced several high priced action flicks; The Rock, Con Air, Pirates of the Carribean films are some examples.

3. Enemy of the State 

The film was supposed to be a Tom Cruise vehicle but because he’s stuck doing Eyes Wide Shut, he had to pass. It would’ve been a third collaboration between Scott and Cruise. I love this movie and in my opinion, it’s Will Smith’s best film. Some of the set pieces were well staged, I especially love the first foot chase and the shootout in the restaurant. Great film!

4. Spy Game

In my opinion this was Scott’s most artistic film to date, I love spy movies and he did an amazing job of capturing the look and feel of how a spy movie should be made. The performances by Brad Pitt and Robert Redford were great too; a very underrated film. I think the film failed at the box office because people thought it was going to be another James Bond type of a movie but it’s not.

5. Revenge (1990)

This is probably my second favorite film of Kevin Costner right behind The Untouchables. What kept this film from being great was that I thought it ended so quickly, I felt it could’ve use another hour of story telling. I think Quentin Tarantino named this film as one of this favorites ever; do check it out if you’ve never seen it.


Rest in Peace Tony Scott. Thank you for your movies.


Now, what’s your favorite Tony Scott film(s)?

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65 thoughts on “Our tribute to Tony Scott and five favorite movies from the late director

  1. Fine tribute to an under appreciated filmmaker. So many of his films were critically panned when they came out (no doubt looked downed upon since the man continued to do music videos and commercials), and only rose in popularity and status once audiences gave them a chance. His loss is terrible news, and he will be sorely missed.

    1. le0pard13, I don’t think he was looked down upon for his commercials and music videos (see Fincher, Lynch, Jonze and even Scorsese). I think his knock was that he brought too much of that flashy asthetic from the commercials and music videos to his films, aka style over substance. The BMW “Beat The Devil” short film above is a compendium of his overuse of style. Quick zooms, hyperkinetic edits, the flashbulb effect, color to black and white, extreme close-ups, blurred to focus shots, the dreaded shaky cam, the strobe effect, the auto white balance effect, dutch angles, helicoptor flybys, etc. Even the whole BMW commercial short has the overused “orange/blue contrast” trend that’s been going around for years now. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OrangeBlueContrast. And all of that is in a 10 minute film! Whew!

      Scott even said of himself “It’s about energy and it’s about momentum… whatever I can do with the camera, that’s icing on the cake. I wanted the movie to grab you. I use four cameras and I maybe do three takes—so the actors love it. Maybe I move it more than I should, but that’s the nature of the way I am.” No matter what you say about his filmmaking at least he’s a man of his conviction.

      All that said he seemed like a good man and actors really seemed to like him. I mean he was able to work with the best. Quite an a-list: Denzel, Hackman, Cruise, Kidman, Knightly, Pitt, Redford, DeNiro, Duvall, Willis, Costner, Smith, Travolta, Hopper, Walken, Murphy, Rourke.

      1. Ted S.

        Yeah, exactly what I was going to say about his later films. That Beat the Devil short kick started his style over substance mode. I can’t stand that quick cuts, freeze frame with stupid subtitles on the screen. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t like Man on Fire, that kind of film making annoyed the heck out of me.

        1. Ahah, I knew we’d have different picks, Ted. I don’t watch that many action flicks compared to you so I’m not as weary with that over-stylized quick cuts, etc. like in the Beat the Devil. I mean yeah it’s intentionally done to be over the top but it’s only 10 minutes long and I LOVE the cast, plus James Brown so for me it’s entertaining.

        2. Ted, here’s a good example of a simply told film that came across my radar today. Compliance. The film has no flash, no sizzle, no stars and no budget. Even the cinematography is just plain drab and there is subtle, restrained music over the trailer. Yet just from the trailer I find myself hooked just by the simple direction and the straightforward storytelling. And guess what? It’s garnering the kind of rave reviews that Scott’s films never received. That said, lots of people loved his films and he’s was quite successful at the box office. Even I realize that every film isn’t for all audiences. My humble opinion. RIP Tony.

  2. Nobody can truly know what was going on in his mind when he decided to take his own life. I’d like to think that he wanted to spare his wife and children the agony of watching him die a slow and painful death and instead decided to go out on his own terms.

  3. I’ll be totally honest and admit to bringIng Scott down on several occasions but he did deliver some goods film’s. True Romance is a personal favourite of mine and for even the quality of that film alone, he’ll be missed. Sad news indeed.

    1. Ted S.

      Same here Mark, if you read my Hack Directors article, he’s number 1 on my list. I don’t regret saying it because it’s true, he seemed to focus more on style rather than telling a good story in his last few films. But unlike most hacks working in Hollywood, he’s very talented.

    2. I almost feel that from the interviews/articles I read on Tony Scott, he seems to be painfully aware that studios always go to his brother Ridley for the more ‘substantial’ projects, so he perhaps go with the more stylized version to distinguish himself and keep himself employed. I do think he’s a talented guy.

      1. Yeah Ridley certainly always seemed to get the ‘epic’ films but Tony seemed to be more experimental with his approach. Even it was an action movie, he’d try and jazz it up a bit. Not always successful but at least he tried.

  4. Hi Ruth, shame to get back to blogging on a day of such sad news! Tony Scott’s films were often brilliant in the 80s and early 90s. Top Gun and The Last Boy Scout are my clear favourites but I definitely need to re-watch True Romance!

    1. Hi Pete!! How’s married life? Looks like you had a wonderful honeymoon from the pics I saw on your blog. Yeah, he was pretty big in the 80s and 90s surely.

  5. So many rumors going around about his death and none of them are lining up. Think several sources have abandoned the brain tumor theory.

    So sad. I was a fan of his films. His type of action film was one I really enjoyed. The frenetic style. He did some excellent work. Man on Fire, Top Gun and Enemy of the State being among my favourites.

    1. Ted S.

      Yeah, I don’t really pay attention to all the rumors going around. Hopefully we’ll find out the real reason he killed himself soon.

      Love Enemy of State, not so much with Top Gun and Man on Fire.

  6. Well I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of Tony’s. Too much MTV style over substance for me. That said I did like the over the top machismo of Crimson Tide and the “eggplant” scene from True Romance although I always wondered how it would turned out if Tarantino had directed his own script. I can’t say I’ll miss his films but it’s a sad way to see someone go.

    1. Ted S.

      Same here Dave, I always imagine what True Romance would’ve been like had QT directed it himself. Love that eggplant scene.

      I don’t remember much about The Hunger, I may have to see it again soon.

  7. Alex Withrow

    Really interesting picks here. I haven’t seen Spy Game and Revenge in years, definitely need to check those out again soon. My faves would be True Romance, then Man on Fire.

    Very nice tribute for a man we should not be tributing for this reason. So sad.

    1. Hi Alex. I want to see Revenge too after reading more about it. I highly recommend Spy Game, I’m glad I owned the DVD that my friend gave me.

  8. Shocked because I just re-watched True Romance over the weekend and remembered how much I enjoyed it. That film along with Top Gun are my favourites of his. His other films like Enemy Of The State, Unstoppable, and Beverly Hills Cop 2 are enjoyable too.

    1. Wow, that is quite uncanny, Asrap. I’m sure lots of people are watching his movies this week. I might do that this weekend and watch Crimson Tide, been wanting to do that for a while.

  9. You guys should see the Hunger, I assume you didn’t because if you did Deneuve alone would manage to get that movie here 🙂

    I really love Man on Fire and Spy Game, Redford and Pitt together in one movie is ingenious casting and the ending to the film is really fun and memorable.

  10. I just saw Deja Vu and Man on Fire, and I liked them both. True Romance is tops for me, but I haven’t seen Enemy of the State or Crimson Tide yet.

    1. Did you see Spy Game Josh? I might check out Crimson Tide soon, haven’t seen it either. Glad to hear you enjoyed Deja Vu, too. I think having Jim Caviezel in it makes me like it more, I wish he were cast in more roles.

        1. Indeed. I still have to watch Frequency which is on loan from a coworker. He’s far more versatile than people give him credit for and his role as Christ should’ve garnered at least an Oscar nom. Ah well, in the world we live in sadly that won’t ever happen 😦

          1. I need to see Frequency too, and he was terrific in The Passion. It’s a shame that some people can get fluke Oscar noms (a la Jonah Hill and Melissa McCarthy), while actors like Caviezel, Anthony Mackie, and Guy Pearce – to name a few – will probably never get a nomination. 😦

            1. I know! I love the three actors you mentioned. In fact, I was quite taken by Mackie’s performance in The Hurt Locker and he was overlooked practically in every award!

            2. Josh, while I agree that respected actors like Caviezel, Mackie and Pierce were most certainly Oscar worthy in their respective films in The Last Temptation of Christ, The Thin Red Line, The Hurt Locker, L.A. Confidential, and Memento… I think the fluke oscar thing is so subjective. They called Marisa Tomei a fluke and yet she’s gone on to get well deserved nominations for In The Bedroom and The Wrestler. Would you consider Elizabeth Shue’s Oscar nom for Leaving Las Vegas a fluke considering what else she’s done? No, she deserved it, even if she can never live up to that performance. Besides there is so much politicking now for nominations (see the Weinsteins) that it’s become a blood sport. Lastly the sad truth of it is they limit the nominations to five for each category. Personally I’d like to see more like they did with the Best Picture noms but that will probably never happen. So many great performances every year. At least you know that Caviezel, Mackie and Pierce are probably going to churn out more award worthy performances. Jonah Hill has probably hit his high water mark. But who knows… everybody was the saying the same thing about Marisa Tomei back then.

              1. That’s a fair point, and I could be wrong about Hill and McCarthy. I wouldn’t call Shue’s nomination a fluke by any means, and I think Tomei’s win is clearly not a fluke. (But I might’ve felt differently in the mid-90s.) Perhaps I should’ve used examples like Jennifer Tilly, Michael Clarke Duncan, or Sophie Okonedo, which isn’t to say that those performances are unworthy of being nominated. I just meant that sometimes a performance gets in from an actor whose overall resume isn’t consistent with solid performances, like the careers of Mackie, Fassbender, and Pearce.

                1. Yeah, I get what you’re saying. I just think that it’s not so much a ‘shame’ and it is what it is. It’s less of a fluke than it just being the perfect storm of the right actor being in the right role with a great script and great director. Even Peter O’Toole never winning the Oscar, losing a record eight times, isn’t really a shame. He did get a lifetime achievement award from the Academy and lived a rich and full life so I can’t feel too bad. That’s why Woody Allen pays absolutely no attention to all this recognition stuff. Love him or hate him he’s still making the same small, intimate films he’s always made. Hollywood hasn’t changed him a bit.

                  Speaking of ‘Shame’… Fassbender choses challenging roles and while the conservative Academy may not get behind them, we notice, the reviewers notice. Ridley Scott took notice and put him in an award worthy role in ‘Prometheus’.

              2. Dave – I cringe that you mixed up ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ with ‘The Passion of the Christ’. Two VERY different films, the first I refuse to watch for its blasphemous nature. Caviezel truly embodied the spirit of Christ in ‘The Passion’ as how I’d imagine the Lord to be in the Bible. His meekness and kind yet powerful eyes, etc. It was just an incredible performance. Whether one believes or not in the subject matter should not have been in contention when judging his performance, but I felt that it was the case during award season as he was grossly overlooked. I think his transformative performance was right up there with actors like Daniel Day-Lewis and Christian Bale.

                1. Doh! The Passion of Christ… I stand corrected. Regardless of your feelings for The Last Temptation of Christ I just didn’t think it was a very good film even though I really liked Peter Gabriel’s amazing soundtrack. At least the filmmakers stated The Last Temptation of Christ was fiction. The same can’t be said so much for Best Pic nominee Mississippi Burning. The awards are a subjective contest not unlike our democratic voting system here in the USA.

                  As far as Caviezel getting recognized, unfortunately the subject still matters to Hollywood. That’s why you wont see Ralph Finnes as Amon Goeth or Bruno Ganz as Hitler or Brian Cox in L.I.E. getting oscars for their great performances. The moviegoers saw what a great performance Jesus was and showed it with their pocketbooks.

                  1. Oh Scorsese actually put that ‘fiction disclaimer’ in the movie? Good for him, but I still won’t watch it. Yeah, I guess you’re right that some subject matters are automatically shunned in Hollywood, but I thought Fiennes did get a nom for playing Goeth?? That was sooo creepy, he’s got those steely gaze that makes your blood turns cold. I have to keep remembering how subjective Oscar race is, more like a popularity contest.

                    1. No Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader didn’t put a disclaimer in the film but they did mention it constantly in their interviews that it was based on a 1953 book by Nikos Kazantzakis. Scorsese’s actually a devout Catholic and was intrigued by the questions the book was asking about Jesus. It grappled with the central mystery of Jesus, that he was both God and man, and explored the implications of such a paradox thru fiction. Honestly Ruth I wouldn’t recommend it other than a curiosity or if you’re a Scorsese completest. Harvey Keitel’s NY accent was quite distracting. Seriously. Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack is quite wonderful if you like world music though.

                      Yeah Finnes (man… that steely gaze was freightening) did get a nom but he was never going to win although I thought he probably should have. Also it was in a Spielberg production that was cleaning up the awards season. Had the film centered on Amon Goeth I don’t think you’d have seen the same reception to his character.

  11. Great tribute, Ruth and Ted. I honestly haven’t seen many of Scott’s films — just True Romance and The Fan, that I can remember — but both left a huge mark on me. True Romance is one of my favorite films from the 90s, and I used to love the hell out of The Fan when I was a kid. Haven’t seen it in years, so perhaps I am due to revisit it.

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Eric, I was thinking of putting The Fan on my list but then I remember that ludicrous climax scene near the end; there’s a rainstorm in a baseball game and they didn’t cancel? Scott should’ve switch the sport to football, then it would’ve made more sense for that scene since football won’t cancel if it rains during the game. The movie itself was very good though, Di Nero and Snipes were believable in their respective roles.

    2. Hey, there’s always time to check out more of his work, man. I highly recommend Spy Game if you’re interested in checking out more of his work. Might check out The Fan too as I like Wesley Snipes 🙂

  12. A nice tribute here Ted and Ruth. I like the collection of films you put together. I’m also glad to see that Enemy of the State made it to both of your lists!

    I love Man on Fire myself. I started to not like his films as time when on. He had an obsession with trains and shaky cams. 🙂

    It is sad that Scott is gone, but I can’t help being upset over how selfish suicide is and can be. we do not know all of the facts, but my prayers to go to his mourning family, friends, and fans.

    1. I remember your post on Man on Fire. Haven’t got around to seeing that one. Yeah he does seem to have a penchant for public transportation, esp. trains 🙂

      I agree T, suicide is very selfish, that’s why my prayers go out to those who are left behind.

  13. Great post. This was a very sad loss. I was in shock when I read what happened. I can’t imagine the pain someone must feel in order to think they must take their own life. Just awful; I’m sad for his family. I had no idea he had a brain tumor, though. That begins to explain his reasons but I still don’t think suicide was the answer. Love Duncan Jones’ tweet. It shows someone who’s angry and sad at the same time. I haven’t seen many Scott films, but the one I enjoyed the most was Unstoppable.

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  15. My favorite of his would be Crimson Tide. I kinda feel bad because I was a bit outspoken about how his recent movies were way over-edited and sometimes painful to watch because of it. Very shocking thing that happened 😦

    1. Ted S.

      I put him on list of hack directors and I don’t regret it at all, I mean it’s sad that he’s gone now but he did make some bad films. I can’t stand his over-edited and frantic style of film making, I couldn’t watch the last shootout scene in Domino without getting dizzy. To me, any films he made after Spy Game were pretty dreadful, well I did like Deja Vu but I don’t think I can sit through it again.

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