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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Ridley Scott

Oct. 21, 2013by: Chris Bumbray

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...

Ridley Scott

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.

His Best Film

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.

His Most Overrated Film

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.

His Most Underrated Film

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.

His Most Memorable Scene

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.

His Top 5 Films

1. BLADE RUNNER
2. ALIEN
3. GLADIATOR
4. KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: DIRECTORS CUT
5. BLACK RAIN

Up Next

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.

Source: JoBlo.com

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8:45AM on 10/21/2013

Add another entry to the underrated list.

American Gangster is a great film. Denzel Washington plus Russell Crowe = 2.5 hours of time well spent.
American Gangster is a great film. Denzel Washington plus Russell Crowe = 2.5 hours of time well spent.
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9:22AM on 10/21/2013
YES!
YES!
7:44AM on 10/21/2013
Agreed about everything you said except for Hannibal being his most overrated. I don't really know too many people who rate Hannibal too highly. Gladiator is still one of my favorites of all time, and the Kingdom of Heaven Director's Cut is simply a masterpiece. It's an outright travesty how the studio handled that one.
Agreed about everything you said except for Hannibal being his most overrated. I don't really know too many people who rate Hannibal too highly. Gladiator is still one of my favorites of all time, and the Kingdom of Heaven Director's Cut is simply a masterpiece. It's an outright travesty how the studio handled that one.
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4:04AM on 10/21/2013
Recently I finally saw The Duellists, now that's unquestionably Scott's most unknown and underrated film. Definitely never heard anyone mention it here before. And what a great a film it is indeed. If you loved Barry Lyndon you will definitely like this too. The chemistry between Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel is perfect, and the duel's are fantastic, especially the almost verit style in which they're filmed. My only quibble would be that the film does a drag a bit before the third act,
Recently I finally saw The Duellists, now that's unquestionably Scott's most unknown and underrated film. Definitely never heard anyone mention it here before. And what a great a film it is indeed. If you loved Barry Lyndon you will definitely like this too. The chemistry between Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel is perfect, and the duel's are fantastic, especially the almost verit style in which they're filmed. My only quibble would be that the film does a drag a bit before the third act, however the last duel is a nail biter, and the very last shot is a thing of utmost beauty.
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3:11AM on 10/21/2013
He's a director who's able to lend such a sense of gravity to any subject he touches, like it immediately takes on a lot of weight and commands your attention as an audience. Even something that might be seen as a "conventional action thriller" and not a career highlight like Body of Lies ends up really watchable in his hands. I think Matchstick Men is pretty underrated, it's not a science fiction or period epic and isn't the first film that comes to mind when Ridley Scott is mentioned, but
He's a director who's able to lend such a sense of gravity to any subject he touches, like it immediately takes on a lot of weight and commands your attention as an audience. Even something that might be seen as a "conventional action thriller" and not a career highlight like Body of Lies ends up really watchable in his hands. I think Matchstick Men is pretty underrated, it's not a science fiction or period epic and isn't the first film that comes to mind when Ridley Scott is mentioned, but it's sweet, clever, light on its feet and features a really good performance from Nicolas Cage.
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10:40AM on 10/21/2013
Agree with all of these sentiments but I believe The Duelists and American Gangster deserve mention here too. The director's cut of Kingdom of Heaven is a great film and it should be the only version of the film available. Black rain is one bad ass flick too, it has one of my favorite performances by Douglas. Agree about Hannibal, the movie is just a total disappointment.
Agree with all of these sentiments but I believe The Duelists and American Gangster deserve mention here too. The director's cut of Kingdom of Heaven is a great film and it should be the only version of the film available. Black rain is one bad ass flick too, it has one of my favorite performances by Douglas. Agree about Hannibal, the movie is just a total disappointment.
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12:38AM on 10/21/2013
I agree with every selection for every category. Ridley Scott is a great director. The director's cut of Kingdom of Heaven is 1 of my most favorite flicks. Gladiator & Alien are also definitely in my top 20 of all time.
I agree with every selection for every category. Ridley Scott is a great director. The director's cut of Kingdom of Heaven is 1 of my most favorite flicks. Gladiator & Alien are also definitely in my top 20 of all time.
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7:05PM on 10/21/2013
Ridley Scott is one of those few directors, like Spielberg, who can tackle almost any genre and be great at it. Although not as great as his other epics (Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven), I thought his Robin Hood was underrated. Sure the story has been done a dozen times before, but I still enjoy this version.
Ridley Scott is one of those few directors, like Spielberg, who can tackle almost any genre and be great at it. Although not as great as his other epics (Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven), I thought his Robin Hood was underrated. Sure the story has been done a dozen times before, but I still enjoy this version.
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1:03PM on 10/21/2013
Ridley Scott, moreso than just about any other director, knows how to create an environment for his movies. The color palette and scenery always feels just right for whatever movie he's trying to make, even the bad movies.

My two favorites are probably Alien and Thelma & Louise, although I recently watched The Duellists and it's very cool.

I've never seen the Director's Cut of Kingdom of Heaven (I liked the theatrical version, but more is definitely welcome), and I've yet to see the final
Ridley Scott, moreso than just about any other director, knows how to create an environment for his movies. The color palette and scenery always feels just right for whatever movie he's trying to make, even the bad movies.

My two favorites are probably Alien and Thelma & Louise, although I recently watched The Duellists and it's very cool.

I've never seen the Director's Cut of Kingdom of Heaven (I liked the theatrical version, but more is definitely welcome), and I've yet to see the final cut of Blade Runner (though the Director's Cut is easily third or fourth in my list). Few directors are as obvious a choice to handle Cormac McCarthy as Scott is.
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11:51AM on 10/21/2013
I really liked Legend, and I only watched it again the other night and I think it still holds a lot more
magic than most fantasy films that come out today. Plus the makeup for the film was amazing. And like Blade Runner Im sure it too has picked up a cult following over the years.
I really liked Legend, and I only watched it again the other night and I think it still holds a lot more
magic than most fantasy films that come out today. Plus the makeup for the film was amazing. And like Blade Runner Im sure it too has picked up a cult following over the years.
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12:51PM on 10/21/2013
It is a cult film, certainly. I tried rewatching it a few years back and had the same problems I had before. But Tim Curry is still arguably the best Devil ever presented on screen. He just deserved, in my mind, a better story.
It is a cult film, certainly. I tried rewatching it a few years back and had the same problems I had before. But Tim Curry is still arguably the best Devil ever presented on screen. He just deserved, in my mind, a better story.
3:08PM on 10/21/2013
I don't know if it was the story that was the problem, I think the problem I had with it was that Jack didn't have enough action especially as he was their selected champion. I wanted more fight sequences showing off his weapons that he had received from that underground lockup
I don't know if it was the story that was the problem, I think the problem I had with it was that Jack didn't have enough action especially as he was their selected champion. I wanted more fight sequences showing off his weapons that he had received from that underground lockup
2:00AM on 10/21/2013
Can't wait to see The Counselor. It looks amazing.
Can't wait to see The Counselor. It looks amazing.
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12:19PM on 10/21/2013
No mention of '1492: Conquest of Paradise'? I swear that movie exists, I saw it at the cinema. And one day it will have a decent home video release. Yes, it shall.
No mention of '1492: Conquest of Paradise'? I swear that movie exists, I saw it at the cinema. And one day it will have a decent home video release. Yes, it shall.
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1:33AM on 10/21/2013
Ridley Scott is indeed badass. Personally I kinda like Hannibal. However, I never read the novel but I don't like that they put the famous Dinner Scene in the movie. I felt it was there just for shock value. And THANK YOU VERY MUCH for mentioning Black Rain. It's my favorite of Ridley Scott's movies and a perfect example of "East Meets West" category and a perfect character studies of both Michael Douglas and Ken Takakura's policemen. I'd also like to see the late Tony Scott in the list as
Ridley Scott is indeed badass. Personally I kinda like Hannibal. However, I never read the novel but I don't like that they put the famous Dinner Scene in the movie. I felt it was there just for shock value. And THANK YOU VERY MUCH for mentioning Black Rain. It's my favorite of Ridley Scott's movies and a perfect example of "East Meets West" category and a perfect character studies of both Michael Douglas and Ken Takakura's policemen. I'd also like to see the late Tony Scott in the list as well.
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2:49AM on 10/21/2013
I'll get torn to shreds for saying this, but his most overrated movie is Gladiator...That movie sucked. And in no way did Crowe deserve the Academy Award for Best Actor. His crying scene in Gladiator was very bad.
I'll get torn to shreds for saying this, but his most overrated movie is Gladiator...That movie sucked. And in no way did Crowe deserve the Academy Award for Best Actor. His crying scene in Gladiator was very bad.
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4:17AM on 10/21/2013
I TOTALLY agree!
I TOTALLY agree!
12:55PM on 10/21/2013
Gladiator was a great example of the Academy feeling like they owed an actor. They didn't award Crowe for The Insider (I always thought he should've been nominated at least for L.A. Confidential, too), so a movie like Gladiator, with all its critical and commercial success (I like it but don't love it), seemed like a great time to give him the Oscar without having to explain how his performance was worth it.
Gladiator was a great example of the Academy feeling like they owed an actor. They didn't award Crowe for The Insider (I always thought he should've been nominated at least for L.A. Confidential, too), so a movie like Gladiator, with all its critical and commercial success (I like it but don't love it), seemed like a great time to give him the Oscar without having to explain how his performance was worth it.
-6
4:09PM on 10/21/2013

nope

love ridley scott. but his best movie is gladiator. and blade runner is ridiculously overrated. especially on this entire site.
love ridley scott. but his best movie is gladiator. and blade runner is ridiculously overrated. especially on this entire site.
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