Peel the Onion | Duds, Gems, and Masterworks: A Selection of Films from Ridley Scott (Part II)
Overrated Duds (Continued)
1492: Conquest Of Paradise (1992)
1492: Conquest of Paradise is Scott's fictionalized account of Christopher Columbus's New World expeditions starring an ill-fit English language speaking Gerard Depardieu. Though Scott excels at massive historical world-building, the movie sees Columbus as some whitewashed village hero rather than the sociopath rapist killing machine with indigenous populations he was. An overlong history reinvented lesson that's best pushed aside into irrelevant amnesia.
Robin Hood (2010)
Hollywood folklore stipulates that there was once a great script called "Nottingham," an edgy take on the Robin Hood tale from the Sheriff's POV. But soon, Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe came along, and the budget blimped, and suddenly the project is strangled into generic Robin Hood fare and rewritten for Crowe's middle age. Ugh. No matter how hard you try, Robin Hood is impossible to get into and falls flatter on repeat attempts. Despite an excellent cast, great look, and technical direction from Scott, the meat and potatoes of the film leave one completely unsatisfied. An overly long and joyless bore-fest that Scott allowed to take itself way too seriously.
The Duellists (1977)
Little known in Scott's filmography is his visually striking debut, 1977's The Duellists, starring Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel as Napoleonic officers entangled in a decades-long feud with each other. Based on a short story by Joseph Conrad, Scott, fresh from the world of advertising, evokes a style akin to Kubrick's Barry Lyndon. A complex and narratively satisfying debut from the Tyneside director.
Black Hawk Down (2001)
Upon examining Ridley Scott's filmography, it's clear he can traverse a wide range of genres with technical savvy. Perhaps a forgotten gem in his war movie chest is 2001's Black Hawk Down. Scott's at the time modern update on the war movie centered on a tragic and disastrous incident from a U.S. military raid in Somalia in 1993. With its sterling cast, Black Hawk Down was nominated for four Oscars, earning Scott his third nomination for Best Director. Black Hawk Down is still cited by directors as an influential genre piece. Well worth a revisit.
The Last Duel (2021)
Opening on a freezing December day in 1386 on an old monastery in Paris, The Last Duel is an action-drama at the highest level with an all-star cast of Jodie Comer, Adam Driver, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck. In this epic Rashomon-like retelling of a rape incident from multiple perspectives, Scott poses the question of #metoo and feminism in an age of barbarity and hypocrisy. A rare release by today's standards with a harrowing central scene and a gut-wrenching final duel, one imagines that only someone like Scott could get the budget to do this, and his world-building and set design are flawless and immersive. Stone cold, grey skies fill the screen, setting the predominant color palette for the 2.5-hours on this return to form for the director on a poignant topic.
As he would refer himself, J.B. Browne is a half "foreign devil" living with anxiety relieved by purchase. HK-born Writer/Musician/Tinkerer.
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