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May 10, 2010


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His output of the last 10 years hasn't been necessarily weak, just unpleasant. Scott is definitely more useful as a stylist than storyteller. Perhaps Quentin Tarantino could use him as a prime case study as to why he's vowed not to direct a film after the age of 60?

Stephen Whitty

Couldn't agree more, Glenn. Pretty pictures, yes, but at this point has Scott had a film that worked, narratively, since "Gladiator"?

And while we're weighing people -- and finding them wanting -- how long are we going to let Brian Helgeland coast on that "L.A. Confidential" credit? Nothing he's done since comes close.

S. Porath

I would disagree that 'Gladiator' worked narratively. Obviously, the Scott that gave us his remarkable first three films is gone. But I think there are terrific things to be found in some of his more recent work. Or, to be more precise, in the first half of the previous decade. I'm pretty much alone on this, but I love the elegance of 'Hannibal'. I love how he knows how absurd it is, and how he found a way in through midievel horror and romanticism. It ain't no 'Silence of the Lambs 2', and at no point is it trying to be.
'Black Hawk Down' is remarkable, and I don't think Scott in his filmmaking is nearly as aloof to the racial component as he is criticized for. 'Matchstick Men' is a bit heavy-handed, but works pretty darn well. And I disagree about 'Kingdom of Heaven'. First of all, I think there is a tremendous difference between the theatrical and director's cut. The latter is far more contemplative, and more curious. That curiousity may be limited to the history, yes, but at least it's not limited to the action as it was in the first cut. I find it hard not to think of 'El Cid' when watching it, but I don't think it looks that bad in comparison. Mann's film is one of the few epics from that period that actually holds up well today, and Scott's is one of the few epics that recall that tradition. If you're going to echo a long-gone type of genre filmmaking, might as well echo the best of them. I think it definitly has a far bigger, more cohesive, and more interested force to it than 'Gladiator' does (which recalls Mann only it's plot).

As for the next three...not a fan. 'American Gangster' in particular struck me as a film that practically nobody involved had much interest in (though it does have one terrific sequence at the end that recalled 'Alien'). And Mark Strong, who I'm dissapointed to here is somewhat lackluster here, made 'Body of Lies' worth watching. The only real reason I'm looking forward to 'Robin Hood' -and this quite sad- is Arthur Max's production design. He is one of the few production designers, who, in a period setting, I can almost always count on being transported by.

Owan Wilson

Well said, Mr. Kenny. I can't help but feel that Scott's just been knocking them out for around 15 years now.

There are a few along the way I haven't seen, and fewer that I enjoyed. I can't stand Gladiator. Boring, self-important nonsense. I can't stand Russell Crowe, either, which doesn't help the rest of Scott's work since then, as far as I'm concerned.

The best thing he's done during this barren period is the storm scene in White Squall. It's a decently entertaining picture, but the climax was incredible, especially the harrowing scene where the boat is disappearing into the depths and Jeff Bridges ... well, I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it.

Anyway. Robin Hood. My brother was an extra in the final battle scene and he told me that the whole crew kept repeating "Saving Private Ryan" over and over to get across what Scott was aiming for. Even my brother doesn't think the film looks like much. We'll find out tomorrow.

Account Deleted

The Kingdom of Heaven Director's Cut is wonderful, certainly far superior to Gladiator, which had a fun first hour until the endless script rewrites scuppered the second hour. It's even better if you pretend Orloondo Bland isn't in it.

But yes, American Gangster, A Good Life and Body of Lies are more like Tony Scott films, and certainly bare precious little similarities to the cinema genius that brought us Alien, Blade Runner and 1492. His plan to make an Alien prequel seem to indicate he is more concerned with commerce than art these days.

Claire K.

I would agree with S. Porath as far as "Matchstick Men." It wasn't necessarily a deathless masterpiece of cinema, but I thought it worked really well as both a thriller and a character piece, and I was disappointed that it didn't get more attention when it came out.


is it now safe to say that ridley scott is a bad director? nothing in the past 20 years is could be deemed better than forgettable.


I think BLACK HAWK DOWN is a brilliant film, personally, and I did also enjoy MATCHSTICK MEN. But despite the fact that Scott has made three of my favorite movies (BLACK HAWK DOWN, ALIEN, BLADE RUNNER), he's made maybe three times as many, or more, that inspire complete and utter indifference. Not that I don't enjoy watching them at the time, at least sometimes, but generally what I end up taking away is all that flying dirt and/or ash and/or blood. Usually dirt, and usually when one thing hits another thing while there's dirt around. He even crammed that affectation into HANNIBAL. ROBIN HOOD must be a frickin' Flying Dirt Expo.


I do have a sneaking admiration for KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, aside from not liking Orlando Bloom at all in the movie, because only Scott would make a movie about the biggest religious conflict in history - one that still has reverberations today, mind you - and take all of the religion out of it. It's so perverse you can't help but admire it in a way, or at least I can't. In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit I'm talking about the original theatrical cut, as I haven't seen the supposedly better director's cut.

But I haven't been a Scott fan this decade either, aside from that and GLADIATOR, which I think of as a low-rent SPARTACUS anyway (minus the homoeroticism, of course). I hated HANNIBAL (admittedly, Harris' novel was extremely difficult to adapt because it pushed into fairy tale territory, but Scott I think completely botched it), thought BLACK HAWK DOWN, though visually spectacular, had too many cliches (particularly the letter being read out at the end. I know we were supposed to be inspired, but I was groaning. Don't know if that was Scott's fault or Bruckheimer's, though), thought MATCHSTICK MEN was a nice 1:30 movie stretched out to 2 hours, and made flabby by that, and thought AMERICAN GANGSTER and BODY OF LIES were beautifully wrapped packages with nothing inside them.

Also, I'm a little ticked off about Scott's dismissive attitude towards all the other Robin Hood movies. Say what you want about their "accuracy," but Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn, Sean Connery, and Patrick Bergin's Robin Hood films were all entertaining and made their points without calling attention to themselves like Scott's film seems to.

Kiss Me, Son of God

Matchstick Men is a personal favorite of mine, but I'm not sure how much of that has to do with Scott. He gives it a nice, slick look, but it's mainly interesting for the script and Nicolas Cage's performance. I always forget that Scott directed it, because it's so outside his m.o. of late. But I suppose I should be grateful to him for getting it made and not screwing it up!


Robin Hood is being released in Ireland this week. I was quite hopeful that it would be worth the wait, but this is the first review I've read and, by the sounds of it, it won't meet the expectations many people had. Although, as you said, recent Ridley Scott creations should have prepared us for it. In spite of all of this, I still hold out some hope for Red Riding!

Account Deleted

Maybe it was a case of lowered expectations but I enjoyed it enormously. Nice scope camerawork, a reasonably intelligent script, solid turns from William Hurt and Max Von Sydow and a rousing and moving score from Marc Streitenfeld. Few blockbusters these days deal with history, legend and myth, and in an age where the summer blockbusters are dominated by mindless CG tedium, mostly from The Hack Pack of Bay, Abrams, Favreau, Sommers, Wiseman etc it's a shame to see an old-school slice of entertainment get knocked about so much.


I have no patience for Scott anymore, and every time I watch BLADE RUNNER, I am bewildered and confused that he put his whole "masterpiece" into one film and had nothing left. (Although the preceding films, ALIEN and THE DUELLISTS, are also pretty great.)

That said, MATCHSTICK MEN was a nice change of pace, and I actually quite enjoyed the first few reels of BODY OF LIES, when nothing seemed to matter much and I had the impression that Crowe and DiCaprio were doing some kind of seriocomic, ISHTAR take on post-9/11 black ops. That would've taken some balls. But, inevitably, the picture has a series of "this shit just got real," and it was downhill from there. Shame.

Oh, I guess BLACK HAWK DOWN was good.

He did WHITE SQUALL? I keep mixing that up with Tony. The exteriors in the last act are nicely atmospheric. Not much else.

@ Mark: I like Sommers some of the time. It's Rob Cohen you have to keep clear of - truly the Michael Winner of blockbuster craptaculars.

Tony Dayoub

I dunno, I'll take Cohen's campy but heartfelt DRAGON or DRAGONHEART over any of Sommers' hollow rollercoaster rides any day. But this may be like arguing over which is your favorite holiday, Secretary's Day or Grandparents' Day.

As for ROBIN HOOD, it's nothing more than a competent movie by a fading director. Its best parts involve the romance between Crowe and Blanchett. She just about steals the show with her proto-feminist take on the character. Carrie Rickey builds a strong case for Scott as an auteur in her latest Flickgirrrl post, using Scott's approach to female characters here and in his other films as only one quality which distinguishes his work even at its lowest.

Jake Hanlan

Gladiator never worked for me from the near the beginnin:; we're asked to accept that somehow Russell Crowe rides a horse from the wild German frontier to his estate in Spain and arrives just in time to find it guttering in flames - when one considers that the order and arrangements to kill his family had to be relayed by the same route the whole scenario is ridiculous. Then, after Maximus has been waylaid by his family's murderers and knocked on the head he wakes up in North Africa somewhere, which means he was unconscious for days and days if not a week or more. And so on...


I'm going to see ROBIN HOOD tonight, totally counter to my better judgment. **sigh**

I have tried to come around to GLADIATOR numerous times, and I just can't connect. From my perspective, it's artless, cruddy-looking, seemingly edited by someone who didn't think anyone would see the finished product, etc. I felt that way in 2000 and the two subsequent times I've sat through it (DVD and then Blu-ray), I felt the same way.

@ Tony - I don't understand why writers think the auteur approach has to do with common themes, as opposed to commonalities in shooting and editing, direction of actors, etc. Rickey's argument (which is not an uncommon one) suggest that the auteurist approach is exemplified at script conferences. ("I think the woman's POV should be played up here.")


@ Tony - not laying blame at your doorstep. Mention of Rickey's line of inquiry inspired my little rant, is all.

Tony Dayoub

@Jaime, No offense taken.

The auteurist approach encompasses all stages of production. For instance, who's to say this feminist aspect wasn't already in the script to begin with, and may have attracted Scott to the project (in part). Or that Scott brought to the foreground what was merely implied between the lines in his direction of the actors. Or that it wasn't incorporated into the script after he encouraged improvisation during actor readings in rehearsal (not that I think Scott is that type of actor's director). It could even be something as passive as simply accepting it at the behest of Cate Blanchett's request to punch up her character in return for her involvement.

The fact that Scott consistently regards his female characters so highly (especially when many of his contemporaries don't) demonstrates the argument is not so easily dismissed.


Tony, you're right about the auteurist approach encompassing all stages of production if you suggest that any player in the production has the ability to impact a film's overall quality. I think this goes without saying in any collaborative art.

However, if you're playing percentages, directors have the edge.

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