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 Hughes...es). 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.

The Narcolepsy Factor Both Ridley and Tony Scott have the somewhat dubious honor of directing movies I've fallen asleep in. The first, Tony's Top Gun, I can't really explain. It was a packed Saturday matinee, I was on a date and I still nodded out during "She's Lost that Loving Feeling" (I think I woke up during the final dogfight). This being high school, I (probably) wasn't drunk, so who knows?

Legend was a little more understandable. This was a Saturday night, also a date (albeit with a different girl), and I'd spent the day working concession at a football game. The movie's ethereal setting and Tangerine Dream soundtrack didn't help, either.

The winner: Tony. I actually dated the Top Gun girl for almost a year. I never went out with the girl I saw Legend with again.[2]

[2]"I married her," would be what I'd say if this was When Harry Met Sally. Luckily, that's not the case.

Which Of These Films Is Not Like The Other? Each director has one movie in particular that doesn't quite belong alongside the rest of his oeuvre. For Scott, it's the weird con-artist comedy Matchstick Men. For Tony, it's his debut, The Hunger. Gotta go with David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve on this one, mostly for the Bauhaus.

Russell Crowe vs. Denzel Washington: No, I'm not previewing next week's CSF (Denzel would win in a walk), but I'm merely pointing out the favoritism each actor shows for a particular actor. With Ridley, he's directed Crowe in five films (Gladiator, A Good Year, Body of Lies, American Gangster and Robin Hood, and he wanted him for BHD as well). Tony has put Washington in five as well (Crimson Tide, Man On Fire, Déjà Vu, Pelham 1-2-3 and Unstoppable). It's like that old joke about how Germans love David Hasselhoff, only here the Germans are the Scotts, who are actually English, and David Hasselhoff is Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington, who can actually act.

Ridley wins, though. Mostly because he directed both Washington and Crowe in Gangster. CheckMATE. Fun fact: Crowe and Washington also appeared together in 1995's Viruosity, which foresaw the terrible future of cybernetic serial killer amalgams that plagues us to this day.

The Verdict: I have to give it to Ridley. Tony's frenetic style leaves me cold much of the time, distracting from his films' narratives rather than enhancing them. And while Ridley's barely batting .500, his involvement with two of my favorite movies (Alien and Blade Runner) puts him over the top.

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