Man on Fire
- Tony Scott
- Reviewed by
- Josť Ruiloba a.k.a. Morris
- Review date
- Monday, August 23, 2004
Creasy (Denzel Washington) is an alcoholic and retired militant with nothing to lose. Heís got nothing in the world and that loneliness is quickly consuming him. But one day his friend Rayburn (Christopher Walken) urges him to become a bodyguard for a rich American family in Mexico City. He is soon hired by Samuel (Marc Anthony) and his wife Lisa (Radha Mitchell) to take care of their little daughter Pita (Dakotta Fanning). A bond slowly starts to form between Creasy and Pita, so when she is kidnapped one tragic day he simply goes nuts.
I came into Man on Fire expecting an action movie more than anything else. Thatís the image I got from the trailers. But I was pleasantly surprised to find a much more thought-provoking, intense drama. Sure, the movie goes into high voltage in its second half, but it comes as a logical and emotional part of the overall plot and not just as a plot device to blow some things up.
The success of the movie lies in the fact that director Tony Scott takes his time. Brian Helgelandís script, from a novel by A.J. Quinnell, doesnít rush things up. We spend the first half of the movie getting to know the characters, their conflicts, and their evolution. So when the tragic event occurs in which Creasy is unable to stop Pita from being kidnapped weíre completely immerged, both attention-wise and emotion-wise.
The relationship between Creasy and Pita is beautiful. Sure, Pita does behave more as a grown-up than as a girl her age, but it never crosses the line as to become unrealistic. Itís more about her intentions and her innocence towards wanting to make a new friend in a man he sees as a sad big bear. Creasy is not willing to at first, but it soon evolves into something more. And itís heartbreaking.
The second half of the movie has Creasy seeking revenge, and youíve never seen a man as angry as this one. I would pee myself if this man was after me. And the sudden discoveries he makes regarding the kidnap are both sad and disturbing. Yet theyíre entirely a result of deranged human behavior. Itís distressing, but real.
Denzel Washington once again tackles a role that goes against-type from what he usually does, and he is superb. I couldnít say it is one of his best performances, because honestly, you could say that just about every single acting job heís taken in his career. He starts off as a lost soul, then becomes a father figure, then becomes a cold-blooded assassin. And never does it seem implausible. And Dakota Fanning keeps proving sheís one of the most talented actresses in Hollywood, period. I also enjoyed Radha Mitchellís performance very much. Great job.
The movie was shot in Mexico City and it portrays an accurate depiction of the city. Iíve been there and know how it can be, whether in the poor neighborhoods or the rich ones. Scott uses his usual flavor of camera tricks and fast editing, something that isnít always necessary.
Overall, a strong, absorbing movie.
ďForgiveness is between them and God. Itís my job to arrange the meeting.Ē
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Other reviews of Man on Fire (2004): Mithrandir