I've continued to think about Tony Scott's legacy. I'm watching True Romance as I write this. Last time I wrote about him, I tried to help redefine his legacy, which has always been mired in the conflict between popular entertainment and critical approval, best signified by Top Gun, his most notable and enduring success.
That was his second feature-length movie, by the way. He followed it up with Beverly Hills Cop II, which made the real trend from all his films the most obvious it was ever going to get.
Tony Scott made movies about relationships. This might be due to the fact that he would forever be identified as "the brother of Ridley Scott." Even Top Gun is better known as a Tom Cruise film than a Tony Scott film. Beverly Hills Cop II, in case the title isn't clear enough, is the sequel to a buddy flick starring Eddie Murphy (and some white dude, just like 48 HRS and Trading Places). Buddy flicks were huge in the '80s. Top Gun is a buddy flick, actually. Of course, it's got a lot of relationships in it: girlfriends, rivals, mentors, all of them revolving around Cruise.
Don't believe me yet? Tony's first movie was The Hunger, which is a vampire relationship movie. Following Beverly Hills Cop II, there's Revenge, which might be considered The Hunger without vampires. Then there's Days of Thunder, in which Tony tentatively dips his toes back into the big action of Top Gun, again with Cruise, though it's better known as a Cruise/Kidman flick. Then there's The Last Boy Scout, which is another buddy flick, this time the '90s version, when the formula was no longer so successful. True Romance is Quentin Tarantino's love story, and also Tony's version of Tarantino, Terrence Malick, Coen Brothers.
Then there's Crimson Tide, the movie where Tony realized Top Gun could be done as a serious adult drama. The Fan has the misfortune to star Robert De Niro, whom critics have tried really hard to hate since the end of the '80s. Otherwise it's another quintessential '90s movie, what Oliver Stone was doing, and what Tarantino was doing, except this was Tony's version. I figure it'll be rediscovered. As was usual in his career, when Tony struck out with a different kind of movie, he went mainstream again with Enemy of the State, which is a Will Smith version of a '70s movie, complete with Gene Hackman doing a version of one of his own '70s films, The Conversation. Tony was always a big fan of Hollywood tradition. That's why he was one of two directors (along with Stone) to direct a Tarantino film other than Tarantino. Spy Game was another attempt to redo the '70s, with Brad Pitt pinch-hitting for Paul Newman as Robert Redford's buddy.
What Tony finally started to realize at this point that he'd made a huge impact on Hollywood lore with his own instincts. That's what Man on Fire is all about, Tony getting back to his own style, and doing it with style, and Denzel Washington. The relationship this time is with a little girl (but not in that way!), something last successfully attempted in the '70s, with Bob De Niro. Then there was Domino, about all kinds of strange relationship; Deja Vu, which is really about Washington's relationship with time; The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, which was a dreaded remake, and so again Tony's relationship with Hollywood lore; and Unstoppable, about everyone's relationship with a runaway train.
Now, even though I started to be a little lighthearted there, I hope you get my point. Roger Ebert wrote in his review for Days of Thunder that it was like a copy-paste of Tom Cruise's greatest hits to that point in his career, as if that's a bad thing. I prefer to believe that a creator ruminating on the same themes has the constant chance to perfect their vision, that seeing variations on anything has the chance for anyone to see something more clearly. Some people seem to think that's lazy and unproductive. What's unproductive is refusing to see quality when it presents itself. That would be something of the career of Tony Scott.
Most people are so busy promoting their own awesomeness that they walk around with a big dark set of blinders their whole life. The world is always going to be open to interpretation, but sometimes there really is a wrong way to view it. Who's ever going to argue that Hitler was anything but a delusional nutbag and be taken seriously by an objective standpoint? But stranger things have happened.
In the meantime, have a look at Tony Scott's films. Go ahead and start with Top Gun, but by all means, figure out your own relationship with him. I'm sure you'll find something useful there.