R.I.P. Tony Scott, Here Is Your Mount Rushmore

1944 – 2012

Tony Scott was really unlucky. He was unlucky because he was destined to be compared to two other men and the comparison to those two particular men somehow hid his unique talent from many of our consciousness. Tony Scott has been unfairly viewed as a cross between his brother Ridley and the other MTV style director of the last 25 years, Michael Bay. He is not a cross between these two men. Tony Scott’s films were high on style, but they also were filled with great performances, had surprising depth with multiple viewing and were fun without making you feel like they were making you dumber while you were watching them. Maybe he doesn’t have a Blade Runner or Alien in his filmography, but Ridley doesn’t have anything that comes close to the cultural impact of Top Gun. Maybe the cutting and general style of The Last Boy Scout is comparable to Michael Bay’s Bad Boys but when did Michael Bay make anything like True Romance? In the wake of his tragic death it is a good time to appreciate Tony Scott for what he was, an extremely talented filmmaker who brought us some of the most memorable moments in film of the last 25 years. To that end here is the Mount Rushmore of Tony Scott.

WASHINGTON = Top Gun

What else could be here? Top Gun has to be on the short list of “movies of the 1980’s”. Frankly, I am not sure their is another movie that married popularity, feel of that time and good storytelling from that decade quite as well as Top Gun did (maybe Beverly Hills Cop). For better or worse (mostly for better) this is the film that most will think of when they think of Tony Scott.

JEFFERSON = True Romance

More time between the Jefferson and the Washington than I would normally like, the fact is that True Romance really showed the other side of Tony Scott. Where Top Gun was made for EVERYONE (and played well to everyone) True Romance was played to more of a niche. Where Top Gun hinged on the presence of Tom Cruise, True Romance is filled with memorable performances, particularly from supporting players (the Walken/Hopper scene is getting a lot of references over the last 24 hours, James Gandolfini has a great scene with Patricia Arquette, Gary Oldman is funny and scary, and my wife and I have been quoting Brad Pitt’s lines from this movie weekly for the last 20 years). More than anything True Romance showed that Tony Scott’s style would work with a lot of writer’s styles.

LINCOLN = Man on Fire

How was Man on Fire a game changer for Tony Scott? It is his second Denzel Washington movie, but it feels like his first, and it really was his association with Denzel that defined the last third of his career. The other way it was a game changer is because it was Tony Scott’s first great movie since True Romance. He had made some good movies (Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State and Spy Game aren’t bad, but all fall well short of great) but nothing that reminded fans of just how good he could be. Then Man on Fire came out and reminded any and all who saw it (admittedly not that many people) that Tony Scott (and Denzel Washington) could still make a great movie. Finally, Man on Fire revealed a more adult tone to Tony Scott’s work that carried through his last movies. The style was still there, but it somehow no longer felt aimed at kids in college. The plot, the pacing all of it felt aged, in a good way.

ROOSEVELT = Unstoppable

Here was a movie that could have been dreadful. If a director rushed it, if a director got the leads involved in stopping the train too early, if a director didn’t allow the tension to marinate, this movie is at best entirely forgettable and at worst unwatchable (see what I did there?). Tony Scott made none of those mistakes, he took his time, made it feel like you were watching something close to the true events the film was based on, and in the end created a film that both works and I think will stand the test of time. Is it a classic? No. But it is one of those movies that you find yourself thinking you are only going to watch for a few moments as you flip through the channels and the next thing you know you have been sitting on your couch for two hours and the channel has never changed.

God rest you and keep you Tony Scott. You shall be missed.

Tony Scott’s Movies:
The Hunger (1983) Level VII
Top Gun (1986) Level VIII
Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) Level VI
Revenge (1990) Level IV
Days of Thunder (1990) Level V
The Last Boy Scout (1991) Level VI
True Romance (1993) Level IX
Crimson Tide (1995) Level VI
The Fan (1996) Level III
Enemy of the State (1998) Level V
Spy Game (2001) Level V
Man on Fire (2004) Level IX
Domino (2005) Level IV
Deja Vu (2006) Level V
Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 (2009) Level V
Unstoppable (2011) Level VI