Tuesday, July 3, 2012

#687. Man on Fire (2004)

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 by 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 sweeping the city, Pita’s father (Marc Anthony) and mother (Radha Mitchell) want to ensure their daughter's safety. At first restless and uneasy around the young girl, Creasy soon forms a bond with the outgoing Pita, who succeeds in knocking down the emotional wall her bodyguard 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 have 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, director 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, which counts down 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 have come across as too showy... too over-the-top. But because Scott presents it at just the right moment, the scene works beautifully, dragging us to the edge of our seats.

Story-wise, Man on Fire is not without its clichés, and could have potentially been 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.


Jeremy Bates said...

Never saw this but my fiance has. I am off to download it now thanks to your blog. Have a great one and thanks for the heads up!

DVD Infatuation said...

@Jeremy: Thanks to you for stopping by, and for the comment!

I hope you enjoyed the movie. Please be sure to let us know what you thought of it!

Thanks again

DawkAngel said...

Man on Fire is probably one of my ten or twenty best films of all times. Even with some of the cliches, when one takes a moment to bathe in the story... it is divine. I always lament that fact that so many people are too busy criticizing Tony Scott's cinematic directing style that they forget that the story is about a man who was lost, and it took a child's unconditional, nonjudgmental love to bring him back from the depths. The reason he was on fire was because, without her, he had no reason to live anymore. Thanks for bringing this film back to my memory. I'll be bringing out the DVD tomorrow :)