When considering which cinematic partnership were the most successful, the likes of Scorsese/De Niro, Burton/Depp, Hitchcock/Herrmann, Spielberg/Williams all come to mind as likely contenders. One partnership that appears to have passed everyone by is that of Tony Scott and Denzel Washington. This is not to suggest that the Scott/Washington double act deserves the number one spot, but in light of recent events, it is a partnership that should be remembered and celebrated.
Man on Fire
You will not find a film where someone can push around Denzel Washington. Man on Fire is testament to that. Before Liam Neeson’s Taken, there was Tony Scott’s Man on Fire. Denzel stars as a CIA operative turned bodyguard who, when the girl he is looking after is kidnapped, endures a violent rampage to try and get her back. The body count is not pretty, but that will teach them not to mess with Washington, D.
The plot to Man on Fire may not be exactly thought provoking, but when the action is cranked up to 100 who really cares? Denzel may not be John McLane or have the physique of Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger to pull off an all-out action hero, but with the help of Scott, Denzel packs one hell of a punch in this impressive 2004 thriller. Sadly, Man on Fire marked the beginning and the end of Washington’s career as an action hero as he settled nicely into the slightly less octane genre of drama.
The majority of actors/directors have one film which does its best to offer an alternative to the stereotypes associated with them. For example, Jim Carrey took time out from pulling faces to appear in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adam Sandler dropped his goofball comedy approach in Punch-Drunk Love and Ron Howard took a break from being a talented director to make The Dilemma. For Tony Scott, the film is Déjà vu.
Déjà vu again stars Washington as an agent who travels back in time to prevent a terrorist attack. What makes Déjà vu stand out above the rest of Scott’s filmography is its confusing and convoluted plot. You don’t need a degree in common sense to understand what’s happening in Top Gun or True Romance, but even if you had one we’re still not sure Déjà vu would make a whole lot of sense. The film makes for an entertaining romp, but only if you’re able to leave your brain at the door and appreciate the visuals instead of attempting to decipher the plot.
There need be no other tagline used to sell Unstoppable than ‘Like Speed, but on a train’ When Speed was released in the early 90’s it was praised for both an intelligent plot and impressive chemistry between the usually nonchalant Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. Unstoppable replaced the bus that cannot slow down with a freight train, and where Reeves and Bullock were nowhere to be found, Washington and Chris Pine instead stepped up to the plate.
Unstoppable, for many, is a guilty pleasure. There is no other way of looking at it. Two hours consisting of an unstoppable freight train, with Denzel Washington behind the wheel and Tony Scott behind the camera is two hours well spent in our opinion. By this point, Chris Pine was riding a wave in Hollywood known as ‘success’ or ‘money’ after starring in the critically acclaimed Star Trek reboot (2009) but even this fresh faced Captain Kirk couldn’t steal the spotlight from Washington, who despite his age, wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty in the Keanu Reeves role from Speed.
The Taking of Pelham 123
Remakes these days are not often viewed favourably, maybe this is due to the increasing persistence of Michael Bay to produce a remake of every single horror film from the 70’s and 80’s or maybe cinemagoers just prefer not to watch a film they have already seen years previously only with the credible acting and half decent plot removed. While there are certainly notable exceptions to the rule, David Cronenberg’s The Fly, John Carpenter’s The Thing and Martin Scorsese’s The Departed being particular decent efforts that, if failing to improve on the original, certainly more than match it, The Taking of Pelham 123 does not fall into this category.
The Taking of Pelham 123 is by no means a poor film but was deemed unnecessary by most people who paid money to see it. Like the majority of Scott’s films, the volume is cranked up to the maximum and lacked the suspense of the 1974 original, replacing it with more noise and slightly iffy special effects. Despite this, The Taking of Pelham 123 does have its credentials. The chemistry for example between John Travolta and Washington is a delight to watch. While Travolta doesn’t exactly make the most convincing of villains, Washington as always provides us with a worthy hero.