After the unfortunate passing of Top Gun director Tony Scott, I was thankfully inspired to look into his work a little more. And because it was payday when I decided to do this, it turned into a lot more. The complete more, actually.

Saddle up.

For Day 1 of the Give Tony Scott a Fair Shake Marathon, I did the top row. In one sitting. Let’s go.

THE HUNGER

Previous viewings: None.

This movie really is a completely jarring change from Top Gun. Besides containing tits and monkeys in the first five minutes, the editing and music and everything else just screams “experimental film.” And it’s very exciting. This gives me some insight into the kind of movie Tony Scott claimed (in the commentary) that he wanted Top Gun to be: Apocalypse Now on an aircraft carrier. I wonder how his career would have turned out if The Hunger had been his big hit instead.

Guess what? Tony Scott knows how to make a good sex scene. A few of them, actually. He just may not know how to make them in a PG movie. And The Hunger is a pretty great R. The plot moves like a snail, but the visuals are engaging. It’s got a Cronenberg sense of style, Becca notes, with slow pacing, disturbing score and editing, and noir influences. For being so slick, having a damn cool sci-fi/fantasy premise, and being legitimately scary at times, I can almost forgive the lack of character development, something both this and Top Gun suffer from.

You don’t need someone to tell you that Tony Scott directed music videos before his first feature. This has all the showy effects and empty symbolism of your favorite commercials for popular bands. Smoky backlighting, doves, slow motion, wet floors, and, of course, roller skating.

Overall, this is a pretty nice movie to look at. Maybe naked. I would certainly watch it again for its cool-as-fuck look, and definitely put it on for a Halloween party, but it comes up a bit short on story. This might have been great as a short episode of an erotic goth version of The Twilight Zone, which, as a matter of fact, is exactly the series it inspired on Showtime.

If you’ve ever wanted to watch Daniel Craig bang Lena Headey, it allows you to do so.

I find it very interesting that Scott didn’t continue working with the crew from this movie on future projects, perhaps explaining changes in tone and style over the course of his filmography. Scott did keep on several people from Top Gun. Again, what sort of director might we have seen in an alternate universe?

TOP GUN

Previous viewings: 36. 34 of them in 2012.

This movie has planes.

For more on this week’s Top Gun thoughts, click here. For more on the other 34 viewings, welcome to our website, click this and enjoy anything with my face on it.

My face.

My thoughts on Top Gun at this point in the marathon were only affected by The Hunger, so we’ll talk more Maverick in the other movies.

BEVERLY HILLS COP II

Previous viewings: I wanted to say zero, but as we got into it, I have definitely seen the opening. I think my high school friend Kyle declared a Beverly Hills Cop marathon one summer break and we lost steam in the middle of the second one. Or I saw it on TV. Regardless, I’ve seen I and III in their entirety multiple times, but never all of II.

Tony Scott just knows how to open a picture. A crazy heist. Slow motion aircraft carrier crews. Bauhaus. He’s proven so far that he’s a strong starter.

This is Tony Scott’s first major pass at a comedy, and from what I’ve seen, he needs to fine tune it a little more. Full disclosure: Working with Eddie Murphy must be tough. I assume you don’t work from a script so much as point Eddie in whatever direction you can. Fuller disclosure: I haven’t seen The Last Boy Scout yet, so maybe Tony eventually nails down the action comedy, but this seems a little too action and not enough comedy. And granted, the first Beverly Hills Cop is not purely funny, but it found a great blend between laughs and gunshots. From the lack of laughs in BHCII (some caused by being too much of a re-hash of the first film), I can see why they tagged in John Landis for the third installment. Whether or not he did too much comedy is not a discussion for today.

Also, I really miss Eddie.

He’s busy starring in a family movie about a magic tricycle.

My notes on this film are fairly sarcastic. I don’t think I enjoyed it very much. When I did laugh, it was because something remotely Top Gunny or The Hungeresque made its way into the movie. For example, the police department is backlit and smoky. For no reason. That “shakedown takedown breakdown” song plays more than once, just like all the songs in Top Gun keep repeating. There are superfluous doves, just like in The Hunger. There is a scene of volleyball that is sexual eye candy and completely unrelated to the plot, except it’s women this time. Also, Brigitte Nielsen’s face looks like the Top Gun logo.

Did you know Flavor Flav almost impregnated the Nike swoosh once?

Overall, I wasn’t a fan. Axel seemed to walk over the line between “crafty” and “jerk,” which makes me feel like a little residual Maverick got into him. I think he’s a tough character to nail down, which is typically the problem with sequels. I feel like I watched the same movie over again, but meaner. I’ll leave this one with my final note: “Openings and climaxes. So far, Tony can do these really well. But there’s nothing in the middle… these are doughnut movies.”

In fairness, he has many more films to go. But for now, those second acts are leaving something out.

REVENGE

Previous viewings: None.

Unfortunate problem: This copy of Revenge is fullscreen. I did not find out until I popped it in. I know, Mom, it seems like no big deal, but it practically shouldn’t count as watching a movie.

Fun fact: Kevin Costner is in this scene.

So, besides feeling like I was watching it on TV in the nineties, I was digging on this movie. To a point. First of all, it’s about a pilot. It opens with planes going fwoosh and call signs and all that Top Gun stuff. And it’s not too exciting. It’s Scott’s first opening that didn’t suck me in.

What did have full suction upon me was the relationship between Kevin Costner and his friend’s wife, played by Madeleine Stowe. This is the first time I felt like I might have been watching real people. Yeah, it still has its Meet Cutes, but it also has its Fuck Nasties.

It contains all the Tony Scott staples I’ve seen up to this point: sunglasses in hot climates, billowy curtains, smoky rooms, birds everywhere. It also has a delayed sexual relationship, but for good reason this time: one of them is married to Anthony Quinn. It makes for better tension and better sex. And this is coming from a guy who hates infidelity movies because, you know, why isn’t everybody just boning who they wanna bone?

Quentin Tarantino is a big fan of this movie, apparently, and I can see why. It’s ultraviolent, slick and stylistic, has a simple plot, and is over-the-top in a lot of places. (Especially enjoy Anthony Quinn fingering a bowl of caviar. Did everyone get that visual metaphor? Did you see him really jamming his fingers into that high-class dish that only someone of his stature can get his hands on?)

Pic unrelated.

I must say, I enjoyed this movie a little more than I expected to, but it was too long for me. Supposedly it was based on a novella, but I didn’t think novellas contained enough story to fill 123 minutes. I wanted to enjoy it like a slow-burning Western, but it was so slow in parts that the fire went out.

Ugh, am I proud of that line? I can’t tell.

DAYS OF THUNDER

Previous viewings: One, about a year ago, with John and Ty, actually. Had nothing to do with Cinema 52; we just saw it on Netflix and said, “Let’s do this!”

I’m going to hand this review over to Leonard Maltin for a second. I just got the Leonard Maltin app (for The Leonard Maltin Game, on those long car rides with Cinemanauts), and Leonard has a list of ways you can enjoy Days of Thunder. I chose “d) count the clichés.”

I love this movie the way I used to love Top Gun: put it on with a bunch of friends when you have absolutely nothing important to do. Have a laugh at the macho dumbness of it all. I can almost enjoy it as a parody of racing fans; I wouldn’t put it past Tony Scott to be that clever.

Actually, let’s jump ahead so we can really talk Scott’s style. Throughout the film, one word kept popping into my head: sincerity. Take the wheelchair race. If you haven’t seen this movie, Tom Cruise and a rival racer are in the hospital, and as they get pushed down the hallway in wheelchairs, they each “help” move themselves ahead of the other. You can see the scene about to happen in your mind. It’s truly a moment where you have to ask: “No, movie, are you really doing this?” It is. The movie is doing this. You’re watching two grown men have a dick-measuring contest via wheelchair as they blast through the halls of the hospital, their arms flying and their testosterone spraying. It’s the sort of thing that makes Becca shout, “Movie Men! I hate Movie Men!”

Not to start a Movie Gender War, but this is dumber than anything Katherine Heigl does in any chick flick.

But wait: what exactly are we seeing in this scene? Am I supposed to be cheering because Cole Trickle (Ground Maverick) is proving himself better than his opponent in every way? Am I supposed to be intrigued because Cole is about to learn that all of life isn’t a competition? Or am I supposed to be laughing because this movie is about 8-year-old boys with driver’s licenses? Regardless of the intent, I am laughing.

I have the same problem here that I do with Top Gun: how am I supposed to feel about Tom Cruise’s character? Is this even a different character? Tom tries to play him as such (with a dash of Rain Man, as far as I can tell), but he still rides up on a motorcycle and… is thoroughly stupid. I guess a character has to start out dumb to force a lesson down the viewer’s throat (see: the commentary for The Weird Al Show), but there’s a difference between stupid and unlikable.

Oh, also, there is a horribly misogynistic sex scene in which Car Maverick, while in bed with Nicole Kidman, tells her his favorite thing about “racing,” which we should note is not sex: “To know that I can control something that’s out of control.”

Which he then demonstrates by thrusting his drive shaft into her chassis.

Did you pick up that subtlety? I hope so, because it’s more subtle in Top Gun. These are Twilight levels of relationship fucked-uppedness. Unless I just don’t know anything about love or equality or good sex. Maybe I don’t.

Oh God, the macho bullshit might be intimidating me at this point.

Hey, John C. Reilly is in this! Five stars.

CONCLUSION:

A good Tony Scott is a) rated R and b) not a sequel. So far.

I think when he works in PG-13 territory, he loses any sense of freedom to do what he wants. The Hunger is fucking cool. I’m saying it. It’s not great, but man, it’s cool. The style he brings to that is leaps and bounds more exciting than the other four movies on this list. I want to see that style paired with a great script, and I’m hoping I’ll get that as this marathon continues. I have faith in the man.

I just didn’t have a particularly good time out of the gate.

NEXT TIME:
The Last Boy Scout
True Romance
Crimson Tide
The Fan

(Click here for Day 2.)