on 24 February 2005
and what a movie this is!!! Not quite sure what the critics saw but this is definitely one of the best revenge flicks, if not the best revenge flick EVER made!!!! The movie starts off with bodyguard Denzel 'Creasy' Washington assigned to protect little Dakota Fanning (brilliant actress) from kidnapping. The first half of the movie is pretty light hearted, but half way through, Pita (Fanning) gets kidnapped and the movie slips into a pretty sadistic raw violence mode as Creasy turns to avenge Pitas 'killers' which might not be easy to digest for some viewers. Nevertheless, if you're a fan of any type of thriller or a fan of Denzel Washington, who actually tops his performance here from Training Day, then this is a MUST!!! There's also a fine supporting role from Christopher Walken who's very good as Creasy's friend. Buy this dvd now...you won't be dissapointed!!! The extras dont dissapoint either: There's over 30mins of fairly good deleted scenes, 70 minute 'vengence' documentary exploring all the aspects of the making of the movie, plus a couple of decent trailers, and a music video.
Tony Scott the man behind such high concept fluff as "Top Gun" directs another revenge flick with Man on Fire. The portents are not good then. Yet this is a mature restrained movie in many ways. Yes it is occasionally very violent but it eschews the flying bullet and pithy one liner approach usually associated with this genre for something far more cool and calculating.
John Creacy (Denzel Washington) is a former C.I.A. assassin with a dose of the moochies and a severe drink problem. He heads down to Mexico to hook up with a former fellow operative Rayburn (Walken) who in an effort to put Creacy on the straight and narrow hooks him up with Samuel (Marc Anthony), a Mexican aristocrat who in light of Mexico's appalling Kidnap culture needs a full time bodyguard for his precocious daughter Pita played with naturalistic verve by Dakota Fanning. At first Creacys relationship with his young charge and her wary mother Lisa (Rahda Mitchell) is terse but time is taken to allow their relationships to develop in a believable manner and so his genuine anger and sense of grief is palpable when she is snatched from under his nose. The pay off is a disaster so Creacy , despite his hospitalisation from gun shot wounds vows to make the kidnappers pay both for the girl and his own curtailed sense of humanity. As Rayburn says "Creacys art is death, he's about to paint his masterpiece".
Washington is superb as he prowls the city picking up one lead after another and extracting information in a series of grisly torture scenes. He radiates a sense of implacable purpose though you have to say he sticks out like a polar bear wearing deely boppers in the city scenes. Not exactly low key. Creacy receives help from an Investigator and journalist and they help him identify the head of the Kidnap ring as a man known only as "The Voice" which I thought was an Ultravox song., but then I never worked for the C.I.A. There is a minor plot twist here that you can see coming a mile off, a bit like Washington actually, but the ending has a neat less than clichéd ambiguity that shows us that violence can achieve some moral resolutions but always at a price.
Creacys totalitarian mission is very old school. Note the leading characters initials are J.C. The difference here of course is that the cause is a just one and I defy any parent to deny that they would wish this form of brutal retribution on anyone who harmed their children.
Washington's effortless gravitas, some excellent support and superb production values make this a compelling movie. It's slightly overlong (Nearly 21/2 hours) and some of the editing is that irritating fast cut twitchy variety which in this long a movie is pushing it but overall this a superior example of the genre ,in my view far more worthy of attention than the excessive and stylised "Kill Bill". Man on fire is no flash in the pan but a genuine slow burner.
on 30 September 2004
We saw this film as a secret preview at a cinema. If I had known about the plot I wouldn't have gone to see it as it isn't the kind of thing I'm normally interested in. If I hadn't been "tricked" into seeing it I would have really missed out.
Yes, it's about a loner (and an alcoholic to boot) hired to stop somebody kidnapping a child of rich parents in a South American country. Yes there's the almost inevitable befriending of child and protector to both their benefits, and the bad person is more or less obvious from the start blah blah all sounds very dull so far. However, it is beautifully shot, the graphics and subtitles are arranged on screen in a really interesting, innovative way, and the emotional storyline isn't at all clumsy. You'd think it was an action movie, and yes it is violent in places, with a fairly hefty bodycount, but it is so much more than a bog standard rescue flick. Everything is well handled, making for an interesting movie to watch both for its plot and its cinematography, and you can't help but get involved with the characters and the story.
I would recommend this to even the most hardened of bodyguard/action movie haters. If I could give 4 and a half stars, it would have the extra.
I don't have the DVD so I don't know about the extras on disc, but the film itself has to be worth the money.
on 5 April 2005
This is a great film and I'm kicking myself for not watching it on the big screen. It's a film about revenge with intense and violent scenes. Denzel's Washington's character is superb. He begins as a dark, brooding, ex-special ops assassin, down and out and ready to put the gun to his head. The film never really tries to include too much information. Much of the time you can fill in the picture with your own imagination. Some have complained about the style in which the subtitles are used but like it or not it does not detract from the film. The film is over two hours long, the first hour or so concentrates on how Denzel's character changes through his relationship with the girl he protects. The second part is about what happens when you take his reason for living away. Hell CIA, black ops, assasinations you work it out... Oh and a nice twist at the end.
on 18 October 2005
I always dissmissed Tony Scott as holding onto his brother Ridley's tail to get into the film industry - he even lights exactly the same as Ridley.
Then I watched Man on Fire and my ill-informed prejuduice subsided and I saw someone create something slick and stylish and very accomplished. The acting is great and he uses the camera speed, editing, music and even subtitles with the right balance.
The fact that his latest Domino has been panned, perhaps Scott cannot replicate his fine judgement on this film. So it surely must be up there with True Romance as his best film.
Man on Fire is directed by Tony Scott and adapted to screenplay by Brian Helgeland from the novel of the same name written by A.J. Quinell. It stars Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Marc Anthony, Rachael Ticotin, Radha Mitchell, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Giannini, Mickey Rourke and Jesús Ochoa. Music is scored by Harry Gregson-Williams and cinematography by Paul Cameron.
Mexico City and kidnappings are rife. Enter ex-military operative John Creasy (Washington). Often drunk and with no discerning aims in life, Creasy is hired by the Ramos family to act as bodyguard to their young daughter Pita (Fanning). After initially being cold and distant, Creasy starts to form a warm relationship with Pita, but tragedy strikes and Pita is kidnapped. This sets the wheels in motion for Creasy to go on a one man war of revenge against anyone involved in the snatch.
Directed with a raft of deliriously ace neo-noir flourishes by Tony Scott, Man on Fire is 145 minutes of fatalism. From the outset it's evident that this sweaty part of Mexico is home to a tortured soul, a man in desperate need of redemption. John Creasy will get this redemption, by hook or by crook, we know this, the narrative structure quickly pulls us in to impress this fact upon us. How he finds it, both emotionally and physically, is what drives the picture on. This is no ordinary tale of revenge, an excuse for pyrotechnics and inventive deaths, it is about one man's journey to said redemption, his trawl through hell, his personal sacrifice is his calling.
The catalyst is the kidnapping of young Pita Ramos, but where it would have been easy for Scott to jump in early and unleash Creasy hell, the director shows great restraint by affording time to the relationship of John and Pita. Most of the first hour is spent building a bond between them, the child softening the edges of the Creasy exterior, to then enter into his heart as he becomes not just a friend, but a surrogate father as well. It's a very real relationship, a natural one, so when things go pear shaped in the second half of the piece, we care what is happening.
Yet constantly that air of fatalism and pessimism hangs heavy as the plot thickens, the unfolding story pulsing with betrayal at almost every turn, classic neo-noir and Scott amps up the disorientation as we enter a hellish world of social decay. His box of tricks contain jump-cuts, film stock, reverse process, over-saturated colours, kinetic camera work, step-printing and slow-mo, all used to create the perfect tonal discord, a marrying up of the anti-hero's state of mind and that of the realm he has entered.
The film can be accused of pandering to stereotyping Latino baddies, especially irksome since the source novel was based in Italy, and that is a misstep that could have been avoided, but Man on Fire remains one of the most important neo-noirs available to view. It refuses to take easy options, particularly with the jet black finale, it has a grasp on what is required for quintessential neo-noir. Backed by stunning work from Washington, Scott and Cameron, it's a film equally of high technical merit as it is of narrative bite. 9/10
on 18 June 2005
I have bought this film (two disc special edition). I have watched it several times, it is the type of film that you can watch several times and not grow tired of it.
The characters are well portrayed, and well played (esp by Denzel Washington). The film shows the emotional rollercoaster that the main characters lead (from the parents of the kidnapped child, to John Creasey aka Denzel Washington), and you soon feel like you too are on that rollercoaster.
The soundtrack that accompanies the film is also brilliant.
The film does have a lot of violent scenes in it and also very emotional scenes in it, yet this is what makes the film what it is.
Highly worthwhile buying, one definitely for the shelf!
The story in brief: Denzel Washington is a washed out heavy drinking ex-military type and takes up a job as a bodyguard protecting a 9 year old girl for a wealthy family living in Mexico City. This is a truly superb movie and has to be one of Denzel Washington's finest pieces of work, in fact the acting on all fronts is superb the chemistry between Washington & Fanning, the little girl he's protecting, is fantastic as she finds a way into his life. Strong performances all round help to cement a very realistic presentation of a situation many well-off families in South American countries must dread finding themselves in. Filmed on location in Mexico City and filled with corrupt police and law officials it really gets across the dangerous feeling intended by the filmmakers of living in that part of the world. The first half of the film deals with the growing relationship between Washington & Fanning and leaves us guessing as to what dark secrets hide in Washington's past, the second part of the film takes a different and surprising turn when the young girl is kidnapped and Washington's past is revealed as he takes it on himself to avenge the kidnapping. All in all an emotional and nail biting ride from start to finish, just superb. The only slight niggle I have is with the occasional subtitles, whilst some of the dialogue is in Spanish and they are required, in these particular scenes the English is subtitled also and the titles can be quite intrusive with various words in bold and enlarged as if to emphasise the speech - I found this "PowerPoint" style of showing the subtitles rather distracting, and detracted from the power of the various scenes; but, as I said, this is a very minor point.