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The Films Of Tony Scott: A Retrospective

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist November 10, 2010 at 7:49AM

One thing we know for certain: Tony Scott is bold to the point of absurdity.
10

"The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” (2009)
Bloody, gritty, profane, and obsessively stylish, Tony Scott's hostage/hijacking tale “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” is more than up to the task of re-imagining its source material (Joseph Sargent’s 1974 original film which itself was based on an original novel by John Godey). Scott’s version is crisply written and wonderfully efficient (Brian Helgeland gets screenplay credit and does a crafty, tight job with uncredited help from David Koepp) with juicy performances from Denzel Washington as the morally conflicted hero and a sneering, bald, tattooed, and constantly cursing John Travolta in one of his best performances as the psychopathic villain. It's quite clear Travolta was having a blast; he's in “Face/Off” territory here. “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” isn’t an awards movie and it's not the sort of film that appeared on a ton of top 10 lists. It's just a souped up genre film made with extreme skill by a director in love with his craft. Scott takes a well-worn narrative (the hostage crisis thriller scenario) and amps up the thrills and excitement with sexy cinematography (by Tobias Schleisser, a Peter Berg regular) and flashy editing techniques (Chris Lebenzon, the action genius behind “Top Gun,” “Crimson Tide,” “Enemy of the State,” and “Pearl Harbor”), which makes for a fast-moving piece of hard-edged, R-rated entertainment. [B]

"Unstoppable" (2010)
Tony Scott needs his ritalin, Tony Scott has ADD, Tony Scott is schizophrenic and needs mental help. Hell, we’ll be the first to admit that we’ve lobbed a lot of these criticisms at Scott’s frenzied, unhinged and sometimes just inanely over-edited and manic form of cinema. But we’ll also be the first to admit that his latest train movie (that’s two in a row) is an exhilarating experience, his best film since “Enemy of the State,” and finally uses his kinetic/fruitcake camerawork strengths in the name of good instead of evil. Possibly one of the biggest assets of the film is a lack of a villain. In his sometimes cartoonish films, the antagonists are almost always laughable caricatures. Here, the only evildoer is human error and a faceless train that’s rolling out of control and threatening to decimate a rather big and populated town. Other advantages include over-the-top Fox News reports, oily corporate assholes making margin-loss based decisions, and goofball, inept track workers who precipitate this entire mess. Usually these plot devices in Tony Scott films are black-and-white and make your eyes roll because they’re so forced. Here, they’re a form of delightful comedy and often so ridiculous, they’re a good laugh. Big, dumb, thrilling fun -- plus simply just genuinely nail-biting and intense -- “Unstoppable” is an undeniably enjoyable film and hopefully a track that Scott continues on from here on in. [B+]

-- Drew Taylor, Rodrigo Perez, Nick Clement, Mark Zhuravsky, Gabe Toro, Erik McClanahan,

This article is related to: Films, Feature, Tony Scott, Retrospective, Features


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