If you thought my critique of Ridley Scott was bad, prepare thyself.
Tony Scott is my least favorite filmmaker. Some people like him and I suppose he might have some modicum of more talent than the sea of hacks in this industry. But I consider him my least favorite, because he uses those talents to make the worst, most pretentiously ill-constructed films I’ve ever seen… That’s an important distinction.
The golden rule of editing is that the best editing is invisible. Unfortunately, that means people don’t notice it and talented editors usually go relatively award-less. But that also implies I give a shit about awards. See Tony Scott seems of the mind that “more” equals “better”. And thus his films are completely edited until they’re a complete mess. They’re littered with completely pointless avid-farts, jump cutting, layering, blends blips, scratches, and whatever the hell else he can figure out how to do. I’ve heard this being defended as a “stylistic choice” and I suppose that’s fair. But it’s also bullshit. I’ve seen films that use the aforementioned editing style for very specific points and usually artistic merit (like 40 years ago in the French New Wave, or avant garde films). What Tony is doing is completely adverse to the goals of his films. He’s not setting a tone or a mood… Unless epilepsy is a mood. It’s utter bullshit.
It wasn’t always that way but from the very beginning, his films have displayed a certain kind of suck. Let’s track that slow transition from lame duck, abject pointless direction to suped-up, avid-fart glory, shall we? Check out this filmography (which omits certain films I’m saving for later): 1) The Hunger – Catherine Devenue and Susan Sarandon are lesbian vampires. SOMEHOW, this film is a completely joyless and not-even-hot endeavor. Isn’t this the kind of movie that’s supposed to be a riot? Sure, he had no idea what he was doing and got into directing because of his smarter brother did, but still! 2) Beverly Hills Cop II just a massive display of FAIL. 3) Days of Thunder – we’ve all seen this NASCAR craptacular right? He was trying to re-tap into his accidental success of Top Gun but I’ll save my rant on that film for later. 4) The Last Boy Scout – completely ruined a perfectly decent Shane Black script (note: when you don’t get in Shane Black’s way you get the genius of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). 5) Crimson Tide – regarded as his most successful movie but only because Gene Hackman and Denzel are really great actors. The dutch angles and use of color in this film are barf inducing 6) The Fan – A crazy fan kidnaps his favorite player (aka the DRAMATIC version of Celtic Pride). It was also the exact moment in which Robert De Niro’s career took a down turn and his first bad performance. Fuck you Tony Scott. You ruined a great actor. 7) Enemy of the State – this one I don’t mind too much, mostly because of the good script, Will Smith and Gene Hackman, and the crazy stuff fit here probably better than anywhere else (w/ the satellites and all that jazz). I also haven’t seen it since it came out and if I went back now I’d probably hate it. 8) Spy Game – ugh. awful. He took a decent plot and made it senselessly unplottable and very, very boring. Redford doesn’t help either. 9) Man on Fire – the avid fart taken to new heights. Easily breaks record for most pointless, distracting edits. Even Denzel sucks in this. 10) Deja Vu – just like Man on Fire only stuff non-nonsensically repeats itself. It’s like watching the same suck over and over.
I realize this is all very general but I don’t have time to write a book, nor do I want to watch these movies again to really explain just how and exactly where they suck. If you’ve seen them. You understand.
However, there are 3 movies that deserve a little more explanation.
True Romance – People like it cause it’s secretly a Quentin Tarantino movie. It was Quentin’s first script. As such, there’s some good stuff in there but it really just plays like QT’s masturbatory fantasy. It’s really not that good of a story and who really gives a shit about a comic book nerd falling into the gangster world? There isn’t a single note of grace in here which QT figured out how to use later when he started directing himself.
Top Gun – This the most watchably-awful movie he made: Top Gun really is a terrible movie underneath it all, but it’s loveably so. It’s the benchmark for both 80’s cheese and homoeroticism. It’s so quotable and fantastic, but here’s the best part. Tony seems like he was making a serious movie. I’m sure if you asked him now it would all be intentional, but that’s the best part of the 80’s. Everybody thought they were fucking awesome and little did they know they were catapulting themselves into complete douchbaggery. Thing about it, people dressed like idiots, made homoerotic sports team sing/rap alongs, used sythesizers, invaded Grenada, and made movies like Top Gun. It was all intentional and thus unintentional comedy. Hell, the 80’s CREATED bad movie irony and this film was the genesis IMHO.
Domino – on the other side of things you can get a movie with absolutely no redeemable qualities. The story is told with no regard for narrative. The film is shot without regard for composition, color, light, or the audience’s perception of it. The film is editing into a fucking mess, I can’t even get into it. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a script and you can tell. If the intention was to display what a psychotic mess the whole situation was and exhibit that in the film itself then FAIL. The story was not a psychotic mess. It’s actually a pretty cool, interesting, and nuanced true story and could have been a great character piece about why a model would suddenly become a bounty hunter.
Instead it all takes a complete backseat to the bullshit of Tony Scott. You see every movie, every subject, every script nowadays becomes the “psychotic mess” he likes to drape his films with and there’s no point. There’s no justification for it. It’s just what he does. There’s a great idea for a movie, maybe even a great movie and Tony Scott just comes in and “does whatever” and does all his crazy stylistic stuff. So if you want your film idea ass-raped into oblivion by all means hire Mr. Scott.
And yet he keeps getting work. I don’t understand. Who likes these movies? And if you do like them are you liking what’s happening in spite of crazy shit he puts into it or because of it? Because I’ve never met anyone who liked the style. They may have liked the movie compared to me. But not the style.
Lastly, The Secret Worst Movie Ever: It’s a short film he did called “Beat the Devil.” It was one of those BMW films. Look it up and watch. I dare you. I’m pretty sure it helped kill James Brown.