True Romance 1992 *****

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The late Tony Scott was something of a cinematic powerhouse, whose work was consistently underrated; a note on his Wikipedia page says that after The Hunger, he stopped reading the vitriolic reviews his film inspired. Most of these critics are long gone now, but Scott’s canon endures; hits like Top Gun, Crimson Tide and Enemy of the State are all better than average blockbusters, but his other works are remarkable in their consistency; Revenge, The Last Boy Scout, Man on Fire or Unstoppable would be highlights in any director’s resume, whether they appeased the public or not. His best film was a flop; 1992’s True Romance gave Scott a super-hot script, and he did it proud; Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette are ideal as Clarence and Alabama, young newly-weds who scram from snowy Detroit to sunny LA after he romantically murders her pimp Drexl (Gary Oldman under dreadlocks and prosthetics). All kinds of talent are shown to their best advantage here, from Bronson Pinochet’s coke-addled flunky to Brad Pitt’s avuncular stoner Floyd via James Gandolfini’s memorable thug. Scott creates the requisite tension, but also creates two vibrant, dynamic worlds for his characters to inhabit. And at the centre is one of cinema’s greatest scenes; a confrontation between Clarence’s cop father Clifford (Dennis Hopper) and mobster Cocotti (Christopher Walken). Two experienced actors with some great dialogue; Scott gets the best out of them as Cocotti’s threats raise Clifford’s awareness of his predicament. From the moment Clifford accepts his last cigarette, the dynamics of the scene change and it becomes a meditation on defiance in the face of death. Ridley Scott has given interviews regarding the family history of cancer which throw some light on his brother’s suicide; Scott’s elegiac handling of True Romance’s highpoint throws further illumination. Unfairly derided as a man who placed style over content, Tony Scott was in the deep end while most directors were just splashing in the shallows.

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The Last Boy Scout ****

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The late Tony Scott was something of a whizz with big-star, big budget action; working with a profane Shane Black script, he crafted The Last Boy Scout as a tight, sour thriller for Bruce Willis. The star plays a booze-ridden cop who teams up with a football player (Damon Wayans) to uncover LA corruption. With plenty of abrasive dialogue and vicious, small-scale action, there’s lots for hardboiled genre fans to revel in, including Willis killing a man by smashing his nose through his face and a startling if barely relevant opening as a quarterback brings a gun to a rain-soaked football match.

The Hunger 1983 ****

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Tony Scott’s vampire movie was critically lambasted on its release; style over content was the common phrase used. In retrospect, The Hunger has lashings of style, but it’s all in tune with the content, which is way more interesting than a run-of-the-mill studio picture. Miriam Blaylock (Catherine Deneuve) is a six thousand year old vampire, while John (David Bowie) has been her lover for three hundred years. John is beginning to show his age, and goes for a consultation with Dr Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon); the scene in which he ages rapidly in her waiting room has genuine poetic power. Sarah gets involved, but makes her a target for Miriam’s affections. With a small role for Willem Dafoe, The Hunger skillfully uses vampirism as a metaphor for not only for addiction but also sexual politics; a meditative look at how lovers prey and are preyed on by their own fear of aging.