Beverly Hills Cop, The Rock, Armageddon, and Top Gun
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Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer are arguably the most successful producing team in Hollywood history. Their films including “Beverly Hills Cop,” “The Rock,” “Armageddon,” and “Top Gun” have earned, according to a 1995 statistic from Entertainment Weekly, about $820 million. When one factors in the grosses for the last five or six films produced by Simpson and Bruckheimer (and Bruckheimer after Simpson’s death in 1996) the total will most likely exceed $2 billion.
Despite their enormous financial successes, the films of Simpson and Bruckheimer are often criticized (and many times rightfully so) as big budget throwaway entertainments. They make films in which stuff, as the critics on SCTV’s “Farm Film Report” would say, “blow up real good.” Peruse most reviews of these pictures, and adjectives like “banal,” “dumb,” “insipid,” and “empty-headed” are bound to appear.
Despite the critical misgivings about Simpson/Bruckheimer productions, audiences still tend to flock to their brand of mayhem, hyper masculinity, thunderous sound effects, and cutting edge special effects. And while they have had their share of bombs (like the dismal “Days of Thunder” or “Gone in 60 Seconds”) more often than not, they make movies the public seems to love.
So what is it about these producers and their films that are so successful?
In this paper I will offer a structural analysis of the films of Simpson and Bruckheimer. In addition to their spectacle and typically well-crafted action sequences, Simpson/Bruckheimer pictures seem to possess an unconscious understanding of the zeitgeist and other cultural trends. It is this almost innate ability to select scripts that tap into some traditional American values (patriotism, individualism, and the obsession with the “new”) that helps to make their movies blockbusters.
On top of that, however, Simpson and Bruckheimer have perfected a sacred Hollywood formula-they are masters of the high concept film.
By the time I complete my analysis, I hope to prove that Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer not only perfected a style of film production, but for better or worse, revolutionized the Hollywood film industry.
Simpson, Bruckheimer and the Critics: A refutation of traditional analyses
In my research I came upon an interesting trend in nearly every review for movies produced by Simpson and Bruckheimer. Most critics tend not to criticize their films for their merits (be it artistic or visceral), but instead critique the producers themselves.
The review that sticks out in my mind (and also quoted by Charles Fleming in “High Concept,” his exhaustively researched biography on Simpson) is a staggeringly mean-spirited review of “Con Air” by Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly.