I knew this would happen. Even as my eyes bled and my skin crawled and my knuckles whitened while enduring Tony Scott’s epileptic bowel-cleansers Man on Fire and Domino, I could sense a small coterie of smart critics quietly mounting their cases as to why these films are misunderstood, fascinating objects. It started with hints and whispers, and now it has entered print courtesy of Ron Rosenbaum, Amy Taubin, and, Heaven forfend, mine own home base. (The online version omits the reference to Domino, unlike the print version – all the worse, as it’s now set down in ink to be used against us come Judgment Day).
The only reason why these defenses can be mounted in the first place is the very same reason I should keep my mouth shut in rebuke: because we all know, of course, that these are hideously bad, fantastically wrongheaded movies, and while there is a certain fascination in how they are so very bad and so very wrong, that fascination can only set in once the agonizing experience of watching them has been got through. Championing or condemning them is immaterial: these films are unwatchable by human eyes and unlistenable by human ears. They are null, zero, void – and being utterly worthless, it’s marvelously easy to get into arguments about them. (As witness all the tiresome and convoluted blog debates over whatever the latest comic book adaptation happens to be.)
I could go through all of the many and manifest reasons why these films are horrid; I could counter any of the arguments made in their favor with my own opinions. Yet when conflict would only abet the continued presence of the unwelcome and unneeded object, I believe that simple, firm dismissal should win the day. I am reminded of the story of the Quaker and the pirate: as the pirate captain and his crew battled the passengers on the ship which they had boarded, the Quaker, true to his pacifist ideals, stood rooted to the spot with his arms folded. But when the pirate captain came within reach, the Quaker seized him, and, saying “Friend, this is no place for thee,” cast him into the ocean.
And to Tony Scott himself, I would append this paraphrase from the great Dr. John Zoidberg: The movie is bad, and you should feel bad.