Man on Fire

A Film Review By Jason L. King

Rating:Rated R for violence and language.
Starring:Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Christopher Walken
Directed By:Tony Scott

Final Grade:

Revenge is back in these days. With the sprout of Tarrentino’s Kill Bill volume one and now Volume 2 and with the Rock getting tough on the big screen in his latest flick, Walking Tall it is easy to recognize that as Americans we love our revenge plots. Even when you flip on the news we find our selves still in a battle of bitter revenge, desperately trying to find a terrorist who hides in sand dunes years after September 11th 2001. If a revenge plot is what you want to see, Director Tony Scott is bringing you something right up your alley.

The Latest Denzel Washington flick touts him as Creasy, a former Marine, kicked out of the marines years prior. Now an alcoholic and a drifter he meets up with an old friend in Mexico City (Christopher Walken) who invites him to stay in the town and try to find a way to call it home for a while. Creasy reluctantly takes a job as a bodyguard for a small girl named Pita (Dakota Fanning). But when Pita is kidnapped and the ransom drop off didn’t go as planned, Creasy goes on a revenge spree, hunting down everyone that had anything to do with the kidnapping.

The cast alone makes this movie almost worth watching. Denzel Washington, who I believe only can play 3 types of characters, a cop, a military officer, or a boxer (which oddly enough also resembles the career of Will Smith) does a nice job in the role. He finds a way to take command in every scene, and you actually really start to like his character. The script also gives him some nice one liners as well as some spots to really shine. Dakota Fanning does and equally good job, being her loveable self. Make no mistake; this is nothing out of the ordinary character wise for her. She is playing the role of nearly the same girl she did in uptown girls, a cute little girl with an attitude. Love it or hate it, there is no denying that she is good at it. Also making the bill is Christopher Walken, a man who on this website The Mike and I nearly worship. Walken Fizzles in the film. His character has a very small role, and in many points you really wonder why his character is really needed at all. Then just as you start to wonder why they keep bringing him back up he walks onto the screen and does some strange (but very weak) Walken Speech about how Creasy is a death artist and is painting his masterpiece.

Director Tony Scott does a very nice job of trying to add as much style as he can in this very straightforward film. Filled with interesting camera shots, camera angles and movements, Scott does a nice job of captivating a very gritty tone for his film. He keeps the film having a very dark tone, and has lots of dark green/Grey overtones that almost become blatantly overbearing at times. But they do work with the film in the end. Scott also does a lot with symbolism in the film, and in countless occurrences you are able to pick them out.

The problem with Man on Fire is that Director Tony Scott may have only been packing the style in because he had nothing to work with. The script is bland and boring, and runs well over 2 and half-hours. In fact the film could easily be divided into two separate films. The first half tells of how Creasy got to know Pita, and the second half is a half cocked revenge plot with a lot of dead air in between. Every time the momentum builds and you start to be interested in the flick, the plot dies, comes to a near screaching halt and you have to wait 15 minutes for any action to happen again. I’m not sure what takes longer, Jude Law making it up Cold Mountain (in last years-Cold Mountain) or Denzel completing his killing spree. Scott also developed a bad habit of subtitling parts of the film that were in Spanish. Words that are Spanish sometimes slip into the sentences of the Spanish Citizens that speak English and Scott Subtitles everything including words like “ex-officio” which in context is easy to tell they mean Ex Official. When he runs out of Spanish to subtitle he does it with English as well, and at various points of the film prints up Creasy’s words on the screen as he is saying them. The point was a stylistic attempt, but it is one that failed miserably in my book.

I always have been a fan of Tony Scott. I was cheering for Spy Game when it seemed like others didn’t care. I’m a huge fan of The Fan (no bad pun intended) and True Romance, Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop 2. I even find enjoyment in “Revenge” the horrible Revenge flick with Kevin Costner directed by Scott. (Sadly enough both Man on Fire and Revenge have a somewhat similar feel to them). But Scott failed me on Man On Fire. Too much style and not enough time in the editing room made this film a flop. I’m sure beneath all the style and the straightforward plot there was an ocean of symbolism and meaning to the story. If you want to find that, its not hard, you probably can. But there are a lot of ways to waste 2 and half hours of your life. Man on Fire shouldn’t be one of them. If you want and action revenge plot, go rent something. Save Man on Fire for a rental if you are looking for a way to kill time.

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