The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Ridley Scott
Last week, to celebrate the release of ESCAPE PLAN, we examined the long career for veteran action hero Sylvester Stallone. This week sees the release of another film from an industry veteran- THE COUNSELOR, from this week's subject...
Having started his career as a director for the BBC, ever since moving into films with 1977's THE DUELISTS, Ridley Scott has found himself hovering near the top of the Hollywood A-list as one of the great visual stylists of his time (an honor shared with his late brother Tony Scott). Scott's first major blockbuster was the sci-fi horror classic ALIEN, and from there he moved on to BLADE RUNNER, immediately establishing himself as one of our great directors.
Since then, his career has had it's ups and downs. The post-BLADE RUNNER eighties were a lean time for him with LEGEND being a notable flop, before bouncing back with THELMA & LOUISE in 1991, then experiencing another downturn which led to half-baked projects like G.I JANE.
Thankfully, Scott bounced back in a big way with the instant-classic GLADIATOR in 2000, which he followed-up with the camp- but successful- HANNIBAL the next year, followed by BLACK HAWK DOWN, MATCHSTICK MEN, and others. Most recently, Scott returned to sci-fi with the divisive- but successful- ALIEN-prequel PROMETHEUS, and now turns his attention to the dark, nihilistic world of Cormac McCarthy in this week's THE COUNSELOR.
This is a tough one, as both ALIEN and BLADE RUNNER are full-on masterpieces. I give the edge to BLADE RUNNER, which I have a complicated history with. I bought the VHS tape of BLADE RUNNER (the Euro-cut with the added violence and the voice-over) back in 1991- when I was 10- and hated it. I guess I expected INDIANA JONES. A few years later, I watched it again and liked it. Then, around the time I turned eighteen, I gave it another shot and loved it. In university, we studied the director's cut in a film class, and by then I knew it was a masterpiece. Now, with the Final Cut, I'd say BLADE RUNNER is easily in my top ten films of all time. It's an astonishing film, boasting an amazingly underrated performance by Harrison Ford, a brilliant turn by Rutger Hauer, and some of the best production design in the history of film. And the score by Vangelis... there are no words that adequately describe its beauty.
Despite the fact that HANNIBAL was such a box-office smash, to me it's a disappointing film. While it's stylish, and has a brilliant score by Hans Zimmer (with a brilliant song called 'Vide Cor Meum' by Patrick Cassidy), the movie itself is too campy to be taken seriously. Prior to this film, Hannibal Lecter was one of the scariest characters in film history. I remember cringing anytime he showed up in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Here, he's a joke. I'll give Scott points for ramping up the gore, but it's all for naught- even the infamous brain-eating sequence.
I'm going to cheat here and mention two movies. The first is BLACK RAIN, a 1989-action flick starring Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia, that's unfairly obscure. The story of a disgraced cop extraditing a Yukuza boss to Japan, BLACK RAIN in an incredibly atmospheric, and tense thriller. It's loaded to the gills with action, features a memorable performance by Douglas, and also marked Scott's first collaboration with Hans Zimmer. His lensing of Japan is also memorable, with Tokyo looking just as alien and futuristic (to westerners) and the future metropolis of BLADE RUNNER.
The second is the much-maligned KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. However, this only reflects the director's cut. The theatrical feature is a mess, with forty minutes of important scenes, including a final battle with the main villain, having been inexplicably cut. Scott's often had his movies tinkered with, but the cutting of KINGDOM OF HEAVEN was disastrous. To this day, people refer to it as one of his worst movies, while- in it's director's cut at least- it's actually one of his best.
I feel bad reusing this scene after featuring it in my Sigourney Weaver column, but I really can't justify including anything other than the infamous chest-burster scene from ALIEN as his most memorable scene. Poor John Hurt.
Scott's next movie is the biblical retelling of the story of Moses, EXODUS, starring Christian Bale. He's also been planning a PROMETHEUS-sequel (which may never get made) and also a follow-up to BLADE RUNNER.