Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Scott Free

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Pretty pictures betray brutality. Orchestrated chaos cut to Hans Zimmer. Bruckheimer bombast. Alumni include Michael Bay, Dominic Sena, Joel Schumacher – the bastard sons of Peckinpah writ capitalist. Ridley’s brother was there first – he laid template in the coke/booze/sex Don Simpson days. Excess, testosterone-infused. ADD editing. Pounding synth score. Carnage composed, gorgeously shot – angles, lenses, smoke, light.

But what Tony had that Michael missed is conscience. Current climate of superheroes, Mr. Scott still dealt in antiheroes. Flawed masculinity (The Last Boy Scout’s Joe Hallenbeck is John McClane's id, the median between John Wayne and Snake Plissken). He was as much a chronicler of the contemporary (usually American, supposedly hetero) male psyche as Scorsese, Schrader, Eastwood, or juniors PT Anderson and James Gray.

Also seldom mentioned with regard to the cinema of Mr. Scott is emotion – rage, ecstasy, grief, melancholy, regret, desire. Characters in his films love furiously, obsessively – from the ostensibly redemptive love of Creasy for Pita in Man on Fire to the fatally fanatic love of Gil for The Game in The Fan (@:45).

I skipped Top Gun (to this day), but mainlined Beverly Hills Cop II more times than a tadpole should.

The Hunger, too, bit me – Bowie, Bauhaus, New York City when it was New York Fuckin City, Ann Fuckin Magnuson, ‘Little Suzy’ Sarandon (bi alternapunk doc) bumping into ‘Little Willy’ Dafoe at that telephone booth (a decade prior to co-starring in Paul Schrader’s transformative, likewise New York-set Light Sleeper).

The Last Boy Scout and Enemy of the State had sharp, subversive scripts (by Shane Black and David Marconi, respectively), and remain underrated gems. The former – thoughtlessly maligned upon its Christmas '91 release – is still the last word on The Obsolete Hero (‘D-Fens’ should have seen the film before going on his rampage in Schumacher’s Falling Down). The latter, flippantly dismissed as ‘empty’ and ‘implausible’ action fodder fourteen years ago, slyly had our besieged heroes (including Gene Hackman, riffing on his own Harry Caul antihero from Coppola's The Conversation) ultimately playing the U.S. government against itself - and the Mafia (the final shootout sequence between these two agencies as bravura as these things come) - in the name of liberty. Both films had their cake and ate it, too.

The Fan was uncomfortably accurate, and True Romance – well, it’s been awhile.

Mr. Bay = soulless product. Mr. Scott = deceptively substantive cinematic powder kegs. Smart. Exuberant. Taken for granted. Not subtle - but then explosions of emotion never are.

No more Tony Scott, no more Tony Scott Movies ©. Alas, the work endures. Burgeons, even. He saw to that. 

Rest in chaos, Mr. Scott.