I've been a movie enthusiast my whole life and been writing movie reviews for over 15 years.
As of this writing, 80-year-old director Ridley Scott (Alien, Matchstick Men) has two epic length movies released within a month of each other (The Last Duel and House of Gucci). From the beginning of the century to 2010, Ridley Scott teamed up with his Australian muse Russell Crowe five times in films ranging from a Best Picture Winner (Gladiator) to whatever A Good Year was.
Let’s a take a look back and rank Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe’s previous five movies.
1. Gladiator (2000)
Amid numerous script rewrites and reports of shooting scenes without a finished screenplay, Gladiator opened in May of 2000, exploded at the box office, made Russell Crowe into a global superstar, and eventually took home the Oscar for Best Picture.
Gladiator is a fairly simple and brutal story of revenge during the period of Roman rule. It made two and a half hours fly by with efficiently directed battle scenes by Scott. An Oscar-nominated Joaquin Phoenix was a villain worthy of all the audience’s hate.
Many people, including myself, wondered how Crowe could have won Best Actor in 2000 over Tom Hanks or Javier Bardem. His charisma carried the film from a standard swords-and-sandals actioner into something truly memorable. He might not have deserved it, but there isn’t a moment we didn’t believe Crowe as Maximus. “Are you not entertained?” Yes we were.
2. American Gangster (2007)
For good reason, most people like to forget that the boring sci-fi dud Virtuosity was the first time Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe appeared in a movie together. I’m sure Washington and Crowe would like to forget they’re in it as well.
In American Gangster, Washington and Crowe don't have much screen time together, but they make it count. Even if you don’t know much of Frank Lucas’ rise to crime kingpin, the movie moves in familiar stages as every crime movie cliché is shown and then talked about.
Denzel Washington is in Default Denzel mode as there’s nothing in his performance you haven’t seen in a Washington performance before. Russell Crowe’s Foghorn Leghorn accent needs work, but he still holds the screen well enough that the accent isn’t too much of a distraction. American Gangster is still entertaining, even if you’ve seen it all before.
Our hands must be at our sides at all times
3. Body of Lies (2008)
Ridley Scott’s violent and uneven political thriller has Russell Crowe bleaching his hair and gaining weight for his role as dirty tricks operator Ed Hoffman. Crowe’s accent isn’t as bad as it was in American Gangster, but it’s still more than noticeable. Crowe’s in a supporting role as Leonardo DiCaprio does most of the heavy lifting, but you do remember Hoffman because he gets most of the best lines.
Scott’s workmanlike direction keeps you diverted, but ultimately Body of Lies is facile in the political questions it raises and then answers with a wave of bullets and scenes of torture. You’ve seen better from all involved.
4. Robin Hood (2010)
Was yet another iteration of Robin Hood really necessary? Of course not, especially not one as pointless is this bloated production is. At first view, it’s not as terrible as one expects, but whatever it tries to add to the Robin Hood legend really isn’t that interesting and almost makes you long for Kevin Costner and his surfer accent. Cate Blanchett acquits herself nicely with a forward-thinking Lady Marion, but nothing else in this movie answers the question as to why it exists when there are so many others you can watch.
After the onscreen viciousness of Gladiator and Body of Lies, Robin Hood was released theatrically with a PG-13 rating. There’s an unrated version, but I’ll never see it because I never want to watch this again. Why PG-13? My guess was to garner more box office money. What also might have worked? For Scott and Crowe to make something original or at least something that’s not bow-and-arrowed to death. Robin Hood was the final time Crowe and Scott have worked together. After sitting through Robin Hood, you get why.
Wearing his favorite burlap sack
5. A Good Year (2006)
Ridley’s Scott and Russell Crowe’s first project after Gladiator is a mid-life crisis travelogue to Provence where at least you get to see multiple shots of vineyards. Crowe plays a workaholic stockbroker who inherits a vineyard and learns to really live and learns the value of enjoying life when you can and insert whatever cliché you feel like. It’s a Lifetime movie from the director of Kingdom of Heaven and Black Hawk Down.
You should get a free trip to France for having to endure this. A Good Year is how long it feels to finally finish sitting through this movie.
We don’t know if Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott will ever make a film together again, but at least they have four solid pieces of entertainment to show for it. And whatever A Good Year was.
© 2021 Noel Penaflor