Rating: The Ugly – 67.4 Genre: Action, Sport Duration: 107 mins Director: Tony Scott Stars: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Robert Duvall
Tony Scott and Jerry Bruckheimer take the Top Gun formula and apply it to the racetrack in what turns out to be a surprisingly enjoyable piece of fluff. Tom Cruise top lines as the hot shot speedster laden with daddy issues who, after rocketing to stardom, develops a crisis of confidence after he barely survives a crash. It’s the Top Gun story right down to the grinning nemesis (Cary Elwes as opposed to Kilmer) but a tad less maudlin and with two special additions. First is presence of Robert Duvall, the seasoned mechanic who reluctantly takes the Cruiser under his wing. It’s his nous that lifts the entire drama by lacing the movie with grizzled sentiment and wise humour. Second is the drafting of Robert Towne to write the screenplay which gives the characters and their dialogue the kind of traction that rarely grace such hot air storytelling. Nicole Kidman offers strong support in an equally capable female role and though it resulted in one of modern Hollywood’s more atypical romances, she and Tom share a rather solid chemistry as the driver and his doctor girlfriend. In a nice twist on the intimidating rival trope, Michael Rooker scores terrifically as the older driver who, after being knocked off his pedestal by the cheeky Cruise, forms a tentative friendship with him – their wheelchair race alone makes this dramatic tangent worthwhile. As you’d expect from Scott, the driving sequences are wisecrack funneled and testosterone charged but thy’re shot and cut with a more coherent style than his films often exhibited. A suitably rousing rock anthem soundtrack wraps them up into neat little action package and though you may feel a tad guilty for falling for the director’s unabashed heavy handedness, you’ll find yourself amusingly entertained all the same.
Rating: The Good – 78 Genre: Crime, Action Duration: 120 mins Director: Tony Scott Stars: Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Brad Pitt
Tony Scott’s finest hour came when he purchased a young video store clerk’s script and executed it with much of the panache and dry wit that the same clerk would soon become renowned for. It tells the story of a geek-come-wild boy Christian Slater who falls in love with prostitute Patricia Arquette, kills her slightly deranged pimp, accidentally steals his cocaine, and then attempts to sell it to some rich Hollywood producer before the coke’s real owner, mob boss Christopher Walken, tracks him down with prejudice.
True Romance quickly became a cult classic because it cut across genres with the same audacity as Reservoir Dogs did. Colourful characters posing hip monologues, an unlikely romance at the center that flavours the entire movie with an essential unreal vibe, and more fists and guns action than you can shake a stick at ensures that the entire caper is bags of unpredictable fun and looks a treat too. With the verve that Scott’s movies were always reaching for coming pre-loaded with Quentin Tarantino’s white hot script, the former commercial director softens his touch and lets the dialogue do the talking. Free from intrusive editing and over the top score, his consistently outstanding scene composition is finally given the room to breathe and the time to be appreciated. Smokey slats of light grace everything with a cosy noir-esque ambiance, perfectly backdropping the lyricism of Tarantino’s words and the enthusiastic performances that bring them to life.
In that last regard, Slater has never been better and he shares a magnetic chemistry with the even better Arquette. Walken is Walken (in the best way possible), Hopper is in fine form as Slater’s estranged father, Oldman is forgivably over the top as the crazed pimp with an epic inferiority complex, and Brad Pitt is a riot as Slater’s L.A. stoner buddy. However, in one of the smaller parts, it’s James Gandolfini who nearly steals the show as the very real (in a wonderful contrast to practically everything else) and very scary enforcer. The last word should go to Hans Zimmer though who, on his own, seems to give this movie a tenderness that raises it above your standard actioner. Okay, not quite in his own, Scott, Tarantino, and Gandolfini helped, a lot.
Rating: The Good – 70 Genre: Action Duration: 105 mins Director: Tony Scott Stars: Bruce Willis, Damon Wayans, Halle Berry
Tony Scott and Bruce Willis are in top form for one of the better action vehicles of the 1990’s. With Scott’s trademark soft noir lighting, his liberal use of dry ice, and the pump action sarcasm of Shane Black, Willis shoots, grins, cracks wise, and jibes his way through the movie as the weary private dick stuck in a malaise since he was thrown out of the secret service. When he’s asked to protect a young dancer (a brief but telling performance by a young Halle Berry), he and her boyfriend (Damon Wayans) get sucked into a scheme of blackmail and murder in the high stakes game of pro football. With its over the top action scenarios and hair-brained plot, Scott knows that the key to this is chemistry and with Willis and an in-form Wayans, he had all the right tools. The banter is terrific, the quips are cutting, and the hits and kicks are just as funny. Willis was rarely better outside of his McCain persona, his character here being a perfect blend of his dry wit and irascible charm. Wayans is more than watchable despite his acting limitations thanks to some interesting characterisation on Black’s part. Like all the best action movies, the story is balanced out with a number of memorable bad guys from Noble Willingham’s corrupt franchise owner to his slightly nuts right hand man, Taylor Negron in gleefully nasty form. Needless to say the action sequences are bursting with innovation and though modest in premise (at least compared to those of the Die Hard franchise), they’re executed to perfection and always work effectively with the plot. Can you ask for more?
A cleverly scripted submarine thriller which pits Denzel Washington’s erudite by-the-book executive officer against Gene Hackman’s old school authoritarian captain in the midst of a nuclear missile crisis. Tony Scott brings his usual big, bold, and brash style to the action whether it comes in the form of the two command officers verbally tearing into one another or in the form of their supporters amongst the crew physically doing likewise. The set design is pitch perfect and complemented wonderfully by Scott’s trademark moody lighting. Sure, some of the key moments are rammed down out throats in a manner that works contrary to his aims but, for the most part, this is Scott at his most restrained. And with a cast like this, he could afford to be. Hackman is at his snarling best while Washington provides the ideal counterweight: cool, considered, and unflappable. What sets Crimson Tide apart from the glut of similar action thrillers, however, is its perceptively drawn screenplay which works simultaneously and figuratively to reflect the moral ambiguity and outright confusion of a nuclear standoff. From the smirkingly camouflaged conversations regarding the origin of Lipizzan horses to the more overt discussions of the Hiroshima bombing, Michael Schiffer’s adaptation of Richard P. Henrick’s story is strewn with logical land-mines and moral quicksand (word has it Quentin Tarantino was even brought in by his ardent fan Tony Scott to zest it up in places). So much so that by the time the credits roll, you’ll be reprimanding yourself for not giving Scott enough credit to begin with.
Rating: The Good – 63.2 Genre: Thriller Duration: 124 mins Director: Tony Scott Stars: Kevin Costner, Anthony Quinn, Madeleine Stowe
An interesting Tony Scott thriller starring Kevin Costner as a retired fighter pilot Jay Cochran, who heads off to Mexico to take advantage of an offer of hospitality from Mendez (Anthony Quinn), the head of a drug cartel with whom he struck up a friendship years earlier. Of course, Cochran eventually gets to see Mendez’ nasty side when he gets involved with the drug lord’s wife. It’s an original enough story and, because it was made before Scott became fond of hyperactive editing and slow motion shots, it’s evenly paced throughout. Moreover, because the revenge plot is developed patiently, the violence tends to creep up on you which along with its graphic nature ensures it packs a fairly powerful punch. That said, just when you think it’s going to boil over, it kind of fizzles out resulting in an ending which is somewhat anti-climatic.