Saturday, November 13, 2010
Why don't you two just do it already?
Those Scott boys love their muses.
For Ridley, it's Russell Crowe, as discussed (quite controversially) here. For his younger brother Tony, it's Denzel Washington. Denzel may make movies without Tony, but Tony never makes a movie without Denzel.
In fact, Unstoppable, releasing today, is the third straight Tony Scott movie in which Denzel Washington has appeared, fourth in the last five, and fifth overall.
So that's why Washington's career seems to have lost a bit of its luster recently.
Look, I actually think Unstoppable looks decent. It doesn't seem to go as heavy on the hypersaturated film stock that Scott has made his trademark, and it reminds me a little bit of Speed, which is always a good thing. Plus, Chris Pine is a genuine movie star in the making. Team him up with one of our greatest movie stars, and you've got the potential for a really fun movie.
It's just that a fun movie would be a real change of pace for Tony Scott.
Scott has become a big punching bag of mine in recent years, and it's really only because of two movies, only one of which stars Washington. In fact, of the five collaborations between Washington and Scott, including Unstoppable, I've seen only three, two of which I liked: Crimson Tide (big fan) and Deja Vu (surprisingly fun). I haven't seen The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 -- I admit that I just assumed that it sucked and moved on -- so that just leaves one more movie I could be talking about:
Man on Fire.
Oh how I hate Man on Fire.
It was like Tony Scott wanted to find one script on which he could dump all his tendencies toward directorial excess, without regard for tastefulness or likability. Man on Fire is a nihilistic, hateful revenge movie full of sadistic characters, many of whom are killed even more sadistically.
But everyone likes a good Charles Bronson movie now and then. So it's the nausea-inducing filmmaking techniques that really drove Man on Fire over the edge into a morass of shit. Jittery camerawork, film stocks and color filters changing every three minutes, frenetic editing, doubling and tripling of movements, distortion of images, slow motion, whip pans, excessive sound effects ... every piece of garish showmanship you can think of to make a film look "hip" and "cutting edge" is in this movie. It just made me feel queasy.
But there's a film that commits these sins to an even greater extent, and it's also directed by Tony Scott, but does not feature Denzel:
Oh how I hate Domino.
Take all the visual bombast I described above and then double it, and you've got Domino. To add to the "hipness" quotient of this film, there are even choice bits of dialogue typed out on the screen and looped in the soundtrack, so they have the maximum opportunity to be extracted for quotation and entered into the cinematic lexicon, I suppose. Didn't happen. Domino is noisy and stupid, and it fetishizes violence as much as the worst offenders in that category.
So what does this have to do with the price of tea in China? Or with Unstoppable?
I guess not much. But any opportunity to diss Man on Fire and Domino is a good opportunity. It's my blog, so if I want to use the release of Unstoppable as a chance to bag on its director, I will.
Tony Scott has made some truly enduring films, such as Top Gun and True Romance. But today he is no better than a hack who occasionally scores a likable movie. Denzel Washington, one of the most popular stars in Hollywood, does not need to tarnish his reputation by continuing to appear in Scott's movies.
Er, unless they're like Crimson Tide and Deja Vu, in which case, never mind.
Absolute viewpoints ... they'll get you in the end.