Movie Violence

R.I.P. Tony Scott, Director of Top Gun, Days of Thunder, and Enemy of the State

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Sad news for fans of fast, loud movies: Director Tony Scott, the mastermind behind blockbusters Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, Enemy of the State, True Romance, and more than a dozen other movies, has died. According to The Wrap, Scott, the brother of director Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator) committed suicide Sunday by jumping off the Vincent Thomas bridge in Long Beach, California.

I don't know much about Tony Scott the man, but I loved a lot of his movies, even a few that I also kind of hated. That's the kind of filmmaker Scott was — an intense and frequently ahead-of-the-curve pop visionary who helped pioneer the aggressive, violent, hyperstylized brand of moviemaking that defines so many blockbusters today. Scott, who began his career as a commercial director, and directed thousands of TV commercials before making his first full length film, crafted super-slick movies that had the 100 percent trailer-friendly look, feel, and pacing of high-end commercials — indeed, they played like advertisements for themselves.

At his best, Scott was a better narrative filmmaker than he often got credit for, especially in the underrated Crimson Tide and Days of Thunder. Enemy of the State, despite its movie-world absurdities, remains the best movie about the modern surveillance society and the terrifying power of secret government power to spy on anyone, anywhere, at any time. Despite the flak it sometimes gets, Top Gun was the cinematic equivalent of a perfect pop song, or perhaps the feature-length music video to go with it. Even Scott's most mediocre movies — The Last Boy Scout, The Fan, Deja Vu — were still engaging little pulp pleasures.

But ultimately his movies weren't really about story — they were about sensation. Scott loved sound and spectacle, and tried whenever possible to provide maximum levels of both. He loved over the top violence and action sequences as well as sound design built to split ear drums. Enough was never enough for Scott; excess justified itself.

He was among the first big-budget directors to edit his films with the rapid fire pacing that's become so common in summer blockbusters, emphasizing speed and sensory overload rather than traditional geography and linearity. He was as awesome as Michael Bay before Michael Bay ever made a movie — and far more twisted.

That's how we got pictures like Domino, a 2005 romp that starred Keira Knightley in the not-very-true story of a young female bounty hunter. The movie, delivered in blast and bursts that resembled headaches more than scenes, appeared to have been edited with a rototiller. It's a bizarre and semi-unwatchable take on mass media depictions of violence, the star machine, and reality television, and it features some of the most outlandishly grisly bloodshed of Scott's oeuvre. It's a punishing experiment that can never quite decide if it wants to be funny or horrifying or stultifying, and mostly it ends up participating in the sordid, sadistic entertainment it half-assedly tries to critique. 

But my goodness, what a picture. It's outrageously outrageous, less a movie than an all out sensory assault, like some delirious, insane, nightmare vision of an action blockbuster. I couldn't stand it, or forget it, and that's why — despite the fact that it's basically a failure — I still kind of love it.

And, ultimately, it's why I love Scott's films. He understood the power of pop — to entertain, to amuse, to subvert, to offend, to irritate, to pound an audience's mind into a pleasantly addled puddle of mush for a couple of hours. At his best, he made movies that you might love, you might hate, but you couldn't possibly wipe from your memory. I hope his sounds and images stay lodged, however uncomfortably, in our collective consciousness for a long time to come. Rest in peace. 

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  1. He was as awesome as Michael Bay before Michael Bay ever made a movie ? and far more twisted.

    That is unkind. He was way better than Michael Bay

    1. Most importantly, we can thank Jerry Bruckheimer for both.

  2. I have never seen any of those movies mentioned, but will check out Enemy of the State.

    1. You should see True Romance as well. That’s one of my favorite movies of all time.

    2. check out True Romance just for Gary Oldman’s insane turn

      1. “He must have thought it was white boy day. It ain’t white boy day, is it?”

    3. Pay close attention to the protagonist’s name. 😉

  3. Top Gun was, is, and forever shall be the best ad the Navy ever made. From the moment I first saw the movie at age 8 I wanted to both be and do Pete Mitchell, AKA Maverick. Then I got glasses, and my dreams were forever shattered. But I can still quote that entire movie almost line for line.

    Also, Enemy of the State may be my favorite Will Smith movie, despite the absurd chases through the District in which he was running from Georgetown to the Capitol in 30 seconds.

    RIP Tony Scott.

    1. Top Gun doesn’t hold up at all.

      “Midway”, “Flight of the Intruder” and “The Hunt for Red October” were all far better. I saw “Act of Valor” last weekend – fantastic.

      1. People keep saying that The Hunt for Red October was a great movie, but I just can’t get more than halfway through it. Sean Connery is great, but the rest of the film seems … meh.

        1. Sean Connery, great Bond, terrible actor. One of the worst, and definitely the most overrated given the huge swathe of the populace who overlook his stodgy under emotive delivery no matter the roll. Maybe one significant exception, the ‘bring a gun’ speech. He can carry a speech in the right conditions but he can’t act in scenes between them. Just awful.

          1. Wait until you see Zardoz. 😉

      2. Yeah, I think TOP GUN was always awful – it’s just that the audience that remembers it as having once been good saw it when we were all 16.

        Generally my taste doesn’t change over time, but that film is an exception. I saw it again a few years ago and I thought, “WTF is this shit? How did I sit through this in the theater and enjoy it? This is dreadful.”

        1. Yeah. When you’re 10 and watch the movie, it’s freaking awesome. After you grow up, not so much.

      3. “The Hunt for Red October” doesn’t have a soundtrack by Kenny Loggins.

    2. The cool thing about Tony Scott was that he recognized Tom Cruise was gay way back in the Top Gun days, and then crafted a movie to highlight that gayness.

  4. “Days of Thunder” is one of the worst racing movies ever made. EVER. Made. Horrid.

    However, it does continue to give my wife and me the gift of the following line, which we continue to direct at anyone who pisses us off: “I’m gonna put ‘im in the wall….”

    Cause racers say that over their raadios ALL THE TIME!!

    RIP Mr. Scott

    1. I prefer the far more obscure: from Space Quest III, “I’m gonna dust you like a bundt cake.” I’ve actually used that once or twice. It sounds a lot more threatening than it reads. 🙂

    2. It was terrible except for every minute that Robert Duvall was on screen.

      “Hey, there’s nothing stock about a stock car.”

    3. What!? You hated Days of Thunder!?

      Well, ok, I did too. But the racing game for Nintendo wasn’t that bad.

  5. I’m pretty sure Top Gun defined the ladyboner.

    1. True. It’s easily my favorite volleyball movie.

      1. Have you seen Val Kilmer lately?

        1. Have you seen Kelly McGillis lately?

          1. Zoinks!

          2. she’s now a lesbian substance abuse counsellor. Good for her.

          3. Flipping through channels yesterday and saw her in SYFY crap vampire movie. Small part too. Her career definately tanked after Top Gun and Witness.

  6. What? No mention of his “The Hunger”? One of the better of the ‘atmospheric’ vampire movies. It’s one I both hate and love.

    1. I’m sure the love has nothing to do with Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve making love. Not one bit

    2. Excellent point Bardas. Scott was a great director. RIP.

  7. He was as awesome as Michael Bay before Michael Bay ever made a movie ? and far more twisted.

    Dude, the man just died. It’s not kind to insult him so soon.

    1. Goddamnit, that’s what I get for posting before reading the comments.

      1. hey anon, it can’t be said often enough

        1. Now, if only we could talk Michael Bay into suicide…

          Is it wrong that I think suicide should be more common and far more celebrated?

          1. How can it be wrong when it feels so right?

    2. When has the word “kind” ever been used to describe the H-ampersand-R commentariat?

      1. Still, Michael Bay? At least Tony Scott won’t be alive to read that comparison.

      2. “The H-ampersand-R commentariat are kind of gay, NTTAWWT.”

  8. I’ve always been slightly unfair to Scott, because I have always counted TRUE ROMANCE as a Tarantino film in all but the strictest IMDB technical sense.

    But when you give him proper credit for that one, that gives him two great films (MAN ON FIRE being the other) and how many people can say they made two great films?

    1. Very true. And he also inspired and mentored Duncan Jones

      1. Wasn’t David Bowie in Hunger?

        1. Yep, and he was very believable as a vampire. The bit where he aged and crumbled is seared into my memory

    2. I love Tarantino’s commentary track on the True Romance DVD. IIRC, he spends an inordinate amount of time talking about how Tony Scott is the great master of smoke/fog filled rooms. It was only then that I noticed that every dramatic sequence in that film is just blown out with fog and diffuse light. Definitely not Tarantino’s style but pretty cool nonetheless.

    3. and how many people can say they made two great films?

      Howard Hawks. Frank Capra. Alfred Hitchcock. John Ford. Preston Sturges. Michael Curtiz. King Vidor. Frank Borzage. William Wellman. Billy Wilder. William Wyler.

      Need I go on?

    1. Not that I’d ever defend FOX, but that article was from AP.

      1. I was referring to the headline they chose.

  9. The Last Boy Scout is underrated. Oh yeah, it’s chock full of stupidisms. But it really is a lot of fun to watch.

    1. Agreed, I wouldn’t have tossed that in the “mediocre” pile alongside The Fan. THAT movie was just totally off-putting.

      Last Boy Scout, if nothing else, has plenty of quotable Bruce Willis lines.

  10. underrated Crimson Tide

    Try watching the movie with a veteran petty officer submariner responsible for securing nukes seething at it’s inaccuracy every few seconds narrative.

    1. Just don’t watch movies with people who are experts in the topics covered in the movies. It really kills the enjoyment to have to hear “NAH! NAH! NAH!!! That’s not the way it’s done!”

      1. You’re right. I may have liked it otherwise if that wasn’t my experience. To sum up my bros complaints, if a sub ever falls out of communication, it must report back as the primary objective, no exceptions.

      2. That’s why I don’t watch hospital or lawyer shows.

        What really pisses me off is, the stuff they get wrong, they don’t need to get wrong to tell a good story. Hell, a lot of the time, the real stuff would make a better story.

        1. So Ted from Scrubs isn’t a spot-on portrayal of the typical hospital lawyer?

    2. Sounds like me the second ‘unobtanium’ was mentioned in The Core. I forget who I was watching it with, but I guarantee they didn’t hear the next 10 minutes of the movie.

  11. …but you couldn’t possibly wipe from your memory.

    I also wouldn’t be able to wipe an ass rape from my memory.

    That’s what Tony Scott movies are – theatrical ass-rape. Some people like that sort of thing.

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