Directed By: Tony Scott
Starring: Denzel Washington, Christopher Walken, Dakota Fanning
Tag line: "A Promise To Protect. A Vow To Avenge"
Trivia: Michael Bay was offered a chance to direct this film
Featuring a predictably impressive performance from star Denzel Washington, Man on Fire is also a fun movie to watch, with a music video mentality that director Tony Scott gradually introduces into the proceedings, perfectly complimenting the film's down-and-dirty tale of revenge.
Creasy (Denzel Washington) is a retired CIA operative who has come to regret his entire career, which saw him do terrible things in the service of his country. His former colleague, Rayburn (Christopher Walken), recommends Creasy shake off the cobwebs by taking a job in Mexico City, acting as bodyguard for a young girl named Pita Ramos (Dakota Fanning). With a rash of kidnappings breaking out all across the city, Pita’s father (Marc Anthony) and mother (Radha Mitchell) want to ensure their daughter's safety. At first restless and uneasy, Creasy soon forms a bond with the outgoing Pita, who succeeds in knocking down the emotional wall he had built around himself. But when the unthinkable happens, Creasy finds he must return to his old ways, using all of his skills to strike back against those who've destroyed his new-found happiness.
The expressive style of Man on Fire changes with each scene, building step-by-step as the narrative requires. Once Creasy is in full vigilante mode, however, Scott pulls out all the stops. In one fantastic sequence, Creasy is interrogating a corrupt detective named Fuentes (Jesus Ochoa) under an overpass in broad daylight. Without going into detail, this interrogation involves a home-made bomb, placed in an orifice of Fuentes’ body that guarantees his undivided attention, and a timer, located in the lower corner of the screen, showing the audience, in real-time, how much longer the unfortunate detective has to answer Creasy's questions. In the wrong hands, such an obvious bit of theatricality might've come across as too showy, too over-the-top. But because Scott presents it at just the right moment, the scene works, dragging us to the edge of our seats.
Story-wise, Man on Fire is not without its clichés, and could have potentially been way too formulaic for its own good. Where it transcends all that is in the telling, and while some have accused Tony Scott (admittedly with cause) of relying too heavily on camera tricks and rapid-fire cuts, with Man on Fire he allows the story to control the tempo, giving us a chance to cozy up to his characters before blowing us away with his patented brand of cinematic panache.