Since news of director Tony Scott’s passing yesterday, I’ve found myself stuck in this bummed out funk. When a celebrity death occurs, I always find it interesting that it can have such an affect on us “normal” people. We’re nothing more than viewers of the art, yet we found ourselves mourning the loss all the same.
The impact of Tony Scott’s death, however, is slightly more puzzling to me, personally. Frankly, I’m not the biggest admirer of his entire body of work. He made some excellent films, and he made some that didn’t quite do it for me. Regardless, I’ve always liked him. I appreciated his candor, his wit and his evident intelligence (listen to any of the director’s commentaries he recorded for proof).
And then there’s the way in which he died. The fact that he walked onto the Vincent Thomas Bridge in LA in broad daylight and made the decision to jump off it is just… extremely disheartening. As ABC News reports, Scott committed suicide shortly after learning he had inoperable brain cancer. Whatever the case may be, this is one dark day for movie fans.
At their best, his films thrilled and entertained as well as any offered from contemporary cinema. Here are the scenes from Tony Scott’s career that I will forever enjoy.
Note: Every embedded video contains spoilers.
The Sicilians and the Moors
True Romance is a perfect film. One of Quentin Tarantino’s best scripts, coupled with refined, precise direction and flawless acting, makes for a movie I can watch repeatedly without bore.
I recently wrote about how taken I am with Brad Pitt’s brief work in the film, and, a few months ago, said how Gary Oldman’s one scene as an unrecognizable, dreadlocked thug, marked one of the best moments of his career. Two brilliant cameos that never fail to amuse.
And how about The Scene? The extended give-and-take between a never creepier Christopher Walken and a scared shitless Dennis Hopper. There’s nothing about that sequence that doesn’t work. It’s as amusing as it is terrifying. It is, in short, the best scene of Tony Scott’s career.
Crimson Tide (1995)
The Relieving of Command
I like to think the pitch meeting for Crimson Tide went something like this: “The movie is about… uh, we’ll fill in the beginning later. But it culminates with Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman getting into a heated, well-articulated argument concerning the implementation of nuclear war, while aboard a submarine.”
Studio exec thinks.
The Fan (1996)
The Little League Downfall
The Fan joins the ranks of many of Scott’s films that aren’t good by “classical” definitions of cinema, but that I love wholeheartedly. The movie is about Gil, a muddling knife salesman (Robert De Niro), who is obsessed with a professional baseball player (Wesley Snipes).
As the film progresses, Gil becomes more and more batshit insane, including causing a ruckus at his son’s little league baseball game. Gil thinks the coach throwing the pitches is throwing them too hard and too high, so, naturally, Gil takes to the field to lecture the coach and correct his son’s poor batting stance. The poor boy’s mother storms down, as does her new husband, Tim. And right around the time Tim reaches for the bat Gil is holding, Gil flares up and threatens to knock Tim out.
Nine Inch Nails’ “Art of Self Destruction, Part One” creeps in, and, for the briefest of moments, I see Travis Bickle as an old man. Heaven.
Enemy of the State (1998)
The Art of Being Incredibly Smart or Incredibly Stupid
Tony Scott knew how to film a shootout. It’s hard to top the Mexican standoff that ends True Romance, but damn if this Enemy of the State climax doesn’t wow bang boom.
Having been chased by American government goons for possessing a videotape he actually doesn’t own, Will Smith decides to shiftily pit the feds against the mob in a wonderful game of Who’s Who. Smith has a video of mob boss Joey Pintero (Tom Sizemore, at the top of his game) doing bad things, the government thinks Smith has a video of the government doing bad things. For roughly four minutes, Smith manages to convince both parties that they both have each other’s tape. Is it plausible? Nah. Do I care? Of course not.
Man on Fire (2004)
The Wishing of More Time
I love everything about Man on Fire. It perfectly encapsulates the new, frenzied vision Scott had tapped into (which his later movies would overindulge themselves with), not too mention a genuinely terrific Denzel Washington performance.
At its very best, Man on Fire contains an ingenious five minute sequence in which a thug begs for the bomb up his ass to not blow up. Denzel, having a thrill as the in-control bully, stands over a half naked, shackled Mexican crime lord as the criminal attempts to satisfy Denzel with information. The kicker is, no matter what the criminal says, Denzel has every intention of blowing his ass halfway to hell. Which he does.
The Hire: Beat the Devil (2002)
Here’s one for fun. As part of BMW’s The Hire anthology, Tony Scott directed this short in which James Brown (playing himself) is forced to atone for selling his soul to the devil (played deliciously by Gary Oldman) years ago.
It’s by far the most fun of The Hire series and, at nine minutes and 45 seconds, makes me long for more of the same.