Film and TV

Cinema Slap Fight: Ridley Scott vs. Tony Scott

Brother against brother; it's like the Civil War up in here.

So far on Cinema Slap Fight we've seen kaiju against kaiju, gangster fighting gangster, and battling icons of female empowerment, but for the first time I'm going to pit real-life brothers against each other. There are other sibling directors out there, but by and large they work together to make films (see the Coens, Wachowskis and Ridley Scott and Tony Scott aren't rivals in any other sense than that their films occasionally compete against each other for ticket sales.

Until now.

In This Corner: The older brother:"father of the 'director's cut,'" friend to Russell Crowe, and the guy who directed that now-iconic "1984" Macintosh commercial, Ridley Scott. I understand he was named for the famous sea turtle.[1]

And In This Corner: The younger brother: red ball cap-wearer, friend to Kenny Loggins, and the man who helped make Tom Cruise a star (in Top Gun, for which he should probably be punished in some way, Tony Scott.

To be fair, Ridley sometimes wears a red cap, too.

Quality Output Tony's produced some good films. Among my favorites of his are True Romance, Spy Game, and The Last Boy Scout, though that last one appeals mostly to the nostalgic part of me that misses Bruce Willis with hair (and also Irish jigs on the big screen). Crimson Tide was solid, and while it's not my particular cup of tea, Top Gun is pretty widely adored as well.

But then, so is Forrest Gump. Go figure.

But at the top of his game, Ridley wins this one easily. Alien and Blade Runner are routinely numbered among the best horror and sci-fi (respectively) movies of all time. Black Hawk Down depicts modern urban warfare about as well as any film ever has (and manages to overcome the gravity well of talent that is Josh Hartnett and the jingoism surrounding the film's post-9/11 release date). He's been nominated for a Best Director Oscar three times (BHD, Thelma & Louise and Gladiator), though Gladiator is certainly not for everybody.

Less Quality Output This one's almost too close to call. Tony's bad movies are empirically terrible (The Fan and The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 remake chief among these), and many of his later efforts are marred by what I can only assume is late-onset ADHD, which might explain why movies like Domino and Man on Fire feel like you're sitting through someone else's epileptic fit.

Then again, Ridley has made a lot of subpar films. For a dude with as legendary a rep as the Blade Runner helmer, it's actually kind of impressive that he's churned out crap like Hannibal, A Good Year, White Squall and the worst of the lot, 1492: Conquest of Paradise. I like how he's attempted do-overs with mediocre fare such as Legend and Kingdom of Heaven by re-releasing them with additional footage (Legend was boosted from 89 to 113 minutes, KoH from 144 to 194 minutes). None of that helped my Legend-induced narcolepsy, but more on that in a minute.

The "winner" here, if you want to call it that, is Ridley.

[1] Fine, call it a hunch.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar