Total Recall: Best Jerry Bruckheimer Productions
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides producer.
We started feeling the summer thaw at theaters a few weeks ago with Fast Five and Thor, but everyone knows blockbuster season hasn't truly begun until we have our first Jerry Bruckheimer production -- and right on cue, here's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, in which Johnny Depp once more sets sail for hundreds of millions of dollars in shiny box office doubloons. Nobody produces a hit like Bruckheimer -- and although his successes have often come over the disbelieving protests of scornful critics, his filmography also includes plenty of well-reviewed releases. What better time to count down the top 10?
10. The Rock
After they made a mint together with 1995's Bad Boys, Bruckheimer and Michael Bay got right back to work, teaming up for this $335 million hit about a neurotic scientist (Nicolas Cage) who's duped by the Pentagon into helping a disgraced MI6 agent (Sean Connery) bust into Alcatraz in order to foil a lunatic Marine (Ed Harris) who's threatening to fire poison gas rockets into San Francisco. Sound ridiculous? It is -- but it flies off the rails with intoxicating panache. "The Rock is the Guy Movie to end all Guy Movies," applauded Marc Savlov of the Austin Chronicle, calling it "a ridiculously overblown summer testosterone blowout right down to the Wagnerian strains of the soundtrack and its stunningly high body count. It's also a hell of a lot of fun."
Depending on your ideological leanings, Enemy of the State's pre-9/11 warnings of an encroaching government surveillance state are either quaint or chillingly prescient -- but either way, this techno-thriller, which united Bruckheimer with director Tony Scott for their fifth film, is a solidly built piece of big-budget entertainment. Starring Will Smith as a lawyer targeted by the NSA, Gene Hackman as the retired spook who helps him evade capture, and Jon Voight as the creepy bureaucrat who will stop at nothing to ensure the passage of a key piece of legislation, State blended good old-fashioned man-on-the-run action with state-of-the-art technology, and scared up a healthy $250 million along the way -- as well as praise from critics such as Marc Savlov of the Austin Chronicle, who called it "a thriller straight through to its sleek, millennial-fever heart, an onrushing, giddily paranoiac roller-coaster ride with bad brakes, clever dialogue, and a reach that only occasionally exceeds its grasp."
The inspiring real-life story of high school football coach Herman Boone, who overcame seemingly impossible odds -- and generations of deeply ingrained racial prejudice -- to lead a newly integrated team to the 1971 Virginia state championship. Of course, the Hollywood version of Boone's tale was a little smoother than the real thing, but with Denzel Washington starring and Bruckheimer steering production, Remember the Titans racked up $136 million at the box office, proving yet again that people love a well-crafted inspirational sports drama. "Taken on its own terms, it's an agreeable entertainment," wrote Salon's Andrew O'Hehir, calling it "solidly crafted, wonderfully acted and often genuinely moving."
The Bruckheimer name is most commonly associated with mindless blockbuster action thrillers, but 2001's Black Hawk Down proves he can deliver a meaningful message while the bullets fly. This adaptation of Mark Bowden's book about the real-life Battle of Mogadishu, directed with gritty precision by Ridley Scott, used an eclectic ensemble cast (including Ewan McGregor, Josh Hartnett, Tom Sizemore, Orlando Bloom, and Jeremy Piven) to take audiences into the trenches with soldiers fighting to kill or capture a Somali warlord. A $172 million hit, Black Hawk Down also earned the admiration of critics such as Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune, who called it "A first-rate war movie that presents its subject so horrifyingly well that it doesn't need to probe or preach."
6. The Ref
It doesn't have much in the way of action or explosions, and there's really only one gun to speak of in the whole movie, but what it lacks in ammo-derived fireworks, The Ref makes up with Denis Leary's sheer full-volume intensity. Starring as an inept, flustered burglar who takes a married couple (Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis) hostage, only to find himself an unwilling participant in their constant bickering, Leary proved he could carry a film after scoring supporting roles in movies like Demolition Man and Judgment Night. At a mere $20 million, it wasn't one of Bruckheimer and Simpson's biggest hits, but it eventually became something of a cult hit -- and it earned high marks from critics like Chris Hicks of the Deseret News, who noted, "As a starmaking vehicle for Leary, The Ref may do the trick. He's a prowling, muttering bundle of nervous energy, which is essentially a variation his MTV character. And he's very funny."