Man on Fire (2004) – Review

4 Stars

Set in Mexico City (five years before the violence there would start getting media attention) Man on Fire is the tale of a disgraced bodyguard rescuing the kidnapped daughter of a wealthy businessman. You can practically feel the humidity in the super saturated color palate director Tony Scott injects into every frame. The particular style Scott first experimented with in small doses on Spy Game is put into frantic overdrive here. It’s cut fast enough to hold the attention of a speed freak with a three-second attention span. It may not sound like praise, but that’s actually one of the films many strengths. Denzel Washington is excellent as Creasy, rivaling his work in Training Day, usually I’m not fond of children actors but Dakota Fanning is at her cutest, and most convincing as the little girl Washington will do anything for.

The film allows adequate running time to let the relationship develop convincingly, which only helps in lending an extra weight to later scenes of action and mayhem, because by then we actually have come to care about these people. When Denzel sets out to get payback, watch out. He plays the character like a man possessed by demons. Washington’s Creasy is a man of action and emotion, but very few words. The beautifully shot film settles down momentarily for a few poetic passages before reaching it’s haunting, inevitable conclusion. Anyone who isn’t excited by the action sequences or moved by Fanning and Washington’s final scene should have their pulse checked. Great screenplay by Brian Helgeland based on the novel by A.J. Quinnell. Only real compliant is that at 146 minutes it’s a bit too much of a good thing.

Director: Tony Scott
Stars: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Christopher Walken

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