on September 22, 2004
"Man On Fire" is an intense action thriller that takes you through hell and back. This is not a "happy" movie, and it's not pretty. It's extremely violent at times and the storyline is a reflection of a parent's worst nightmare--the kidnapping and possible murder of their child. While it can be over-stylish at times with fancy editing and camera work, it proves to be a more than effective thriller.
John Creasy used to work for the CIA, but now he's an alcoholic who doesn't think there's much to live for. This is due to the terrible things he has done in his line of work (we never know exactly what he did, but there are more than enough hints). Starting a new life in Mexico, his best friend finds him a job as a bodyguard to a nine-year-old girl since the family is worried about all of the kidnappings that have taken place in Mexico. The girl, Pita, takes a liking to Creasy right away, but he doesn't allow her in and treats her as nothing more than a job. Amazingly, he starts to get attached to Pita and finds a new reason to live. Not only is he her bodyguard, but he is almost like a second father to her.
Things drastically change when Pita gets kidnapped. Creasy does his best to take out the kidnappers when it happens, but is outnumbered and has been shot multiple times. While recovering in the hospital, he learns that the ransom for little Pita has gone sour and that her captors have most likely executed her. This sets off a rage inside Creasy like he has never experienced before. He checks himself out of the hospital and wages his own war against everybody who was involved in the kidnapping/murder of Pita. And he vows to kill every single one of them.
Tony Scott directs this intense and emotional thriller. He does a great job with the material and he knows how to get the performances that he wants from his actors. My complaint is that he goes a little overboard with the fancy camera work and editing at times, but that is something that can be overlooked. Denzel Washington gives one of his most powerful performances since "Training Day." He really makes you feel for his character, and his absolute hatred towards the people involved with the horrible kidnapping is done in an extremely realistic and convincing way. Dakota Fanning does a great job in her role of "Pita" and does well by playing opposite of Denzel. And, we cannot forget the great Christopher Walken who also does a superb job on his part. He plays it perfectly and does not try to steal any scenes from Washington.
It must be said, this is a vicious movie. It's not for people with weak stomachs. There is one scene in particular that makes the ear-cutting scene in "Reservoir Dogs" look like absolutely nothing. Denzel's character doesn't only want to murder the bad guys... he wants to make them suffer in the most horrific ways, and he does that many times. It's not a happy or cute movie. It will disgust a lot of people, so it's not for everyone. Make sure you keep that in mind if you decide to rent this. Other than the option to watch the movie in DTS and two commentary tracks, the DVD has no special features. It looks and sounds great. It would've been nice if they did more with the DVD in the special features department, though.
"Man On Fire" is a powerful and unforgiving thrill ride that will keep your heart pumping and your forehead sweating. Other than some of the flashy and fast editing/camera work, the movie really works. Again, this is not for anybody with weak stomachs. It is very disturbing and unsettling. If you're looking for a powerful thriller with a lot of "bang" and real emotion, then this is something to check out. As dark and brutal as this movie is, I really enjoyed watching this. -Michael Crane
on October 3, 2004
This is a dark, clever and very surreal kind of movie. I wasn't sure what to expect when I got the chance to see a preview of it at a UK movie theatre this week.
It starts off as it means to go on, with the kidnapping of a teenage boy, his torture by his kidnappers, the payment of the ransom by his family and his release, a broken shell of the happy go lucky youth he used to be.
It is after this introduction we meet Creasy, played to perfection by the actor Denzel Washington. He is the tormented killer-come-bodyguard who is slowly drinking himself to death, a man who has forgotten how to live for as his friend Rayburn, the glorious Christopher Walken points out to a Police Officer, "Creasy is a man who has made an art out of killing..."
Dakota Fanning gives an excellent performance as Pita, the half Mexican, half American child who gets under Creasy's skin and into his heart and teaches him that it is okay to care and love another person.
When Pita is kidnapped and then murdered (or so Creasy thinks), a rage is born inside of Creasy that will only be quenched by the total annihilation of all those involved in her abduction.
With the help of a crusading reporter Mariana, the wonderful Rachel Ticotin and the cynical Manzano, a delicious Giancarlo Giannini, Creasy sets about enacting his vow and he does it in style!
This is not violence for the sake of violence, and though there is plenty of blood and guts flying, what surprised me was how well it was done! I am really quite squeamish and though there were a couple of times when I went, "OH YUCK" it certainly wasn't as bad I expected it to be and it fitted in TOTALLY with the plot.
Mickey Rourke plays the charming but sleazy lawyer Jordan and I was most impressed by Radha Mitchell who played Lisa, Pitas' mother, she reminded me of Tea Leoni, but with more class whilst Marc Anthony gives a solid performance as Sammy, Pita's weak but loving father and last but not least, Angelina Peláez who only has a bit part as the nun Sister Anna but who is able to see in to Creasy's soul and know he is a fallen angel.
"Man on Fire" is not an easy film to get your head around, the plot is quite complex, the cinematography is utterly surreal in parts, flickering in an out as we are treated to images both real and imagined and in the background there is the ever menacing present of corrupt public officials and a man know only as the "The voice" who has kept Mexico in thrall with his constant murderous kidnappings for profit.
The director Tony Scott has done a great job; I love this film with all its twists and turns, its many complex characters, the good but tormented soul, (Creasy), the innocent (the child Pita) the bad, (Fuentes a corrupt cop) the ugly (Manzano the good cop), the weak (Sammy Pita's father), the sleaze ball (Jordan the lawyer) the beautiful, (Mariana the crusading reporter), the tragic (Lisa, Pita's mother), the stupid, (Bruno the rather stupid Rave Master) and the downright evil (the Voice).
The film score is also a crackingly good example of how you can put music in a film and make it part of the whole visual experience.
In fact the music was SO good in my opinion I am breaking one of my rules, I'm buying the CD! I only do buy a soundtrack when I really LOVE the music; this is one of those rare occasions!
The whole film is quality on celluloid, and all the actors/actresses are perfect to the parts.
A film worthy of many Oscar nominations in my humble opinion but then quality has never been an Oscar trademark so I am not holding my breath in that department!
American audiences love their Silver Screen heroes that wreak vengeance on the Bad Guys. In MAN ON FIRE, Denzel Washington makes Stallone's Rambo and Eastwood's Dirty Harry look like altar boys. I don't recall either of the latter two lopping off fingers.
Washington is Creasy, who, haunted by his past as a counter-insurgency assassin employed by the U.S. government, drinks to excess and contemplates suicide. On a social call to a pal from the old days, Rayburn (Christopher Walken), Creasy rhetorically asks, "Do you think God will forgive us for what we've done?" Rayburn, now living the good life in Juarez, Mexico, would like to see Creasy pull out of his self-destructive funk. So, he puts his friend in touch with Mexican businessman Samuel Ramos (Marc Anthony), who lives with his American wife Lisa (Radha Mitchell) and daughter Pita (Dakota Fanning) in Mexico City, where kidnapping offspring of the rich and famous is a growth industry. Samuel and Lisa are in the market for a new bodyguard for their daughter.
Creasy, of course, takes the job. At first, he rebuffs the overtures of young Pita, who's an only child in need of a new friend. Slowly, though, he falls under her thrall. Indeed, Pita's innocence and youthful zest for life make Creasy want to live again. So, after she's ultimately kidnapped in a bloody street shootout (that leaves her protector gravely wounded) and ostensibly killed after a ransom attempt gone awry, Creasy vows apocalyptic revenge against all those involved in her abduction. And Rayburn, with his useful contacts, supplies enough firepower to single-handedly topple another Third World despot.
MAN ON FIRE has been criticized because Washington, one of Hollywood's finest dramatic actors, supposedly deserves a better role than that of a formula action/special FX Neanderthal. The point seems to be missed that Denzel brings to Creasy's persona a depth of character, albeit an emotionally and psychologically tortured one, rarely seen in the lantern-jawed superheroes of screen legend. Indeed, Denzel's performance is eminently watchable, as is that of each of the major players in the production. Dakota Fanning, at age 10, is incorrigibly engaging as the kid who wins the Tough Guy's heart. Mitchell, whom I've not seen before, is completely convincing as the gorgeous Mom who holds her child dearer than anything. And how about that Christopher Walken, huh? Here, soon after THE RUNDOWN, we have another notable supporting performance.
In my mind, the film falls short on two minor points. First, it wasn't clear what happened to Samuel's lawyer - poor scripting or bad editing, perhaps. Second, the casting director apparently bent over backwards to make the Ramos family appeal to WASP audiences. I mean, why not Salma Hayek and some adorable Latino girl instead of the Nordic blonde Lisa and the precocious Pita (who had all the Latino attributes of Shirley Temple in her Cute Phase)? And, as an aside, Mexico City desperately needs a PR makeover after MAN ON FIRE dwells on its police corruption and slums - I wouldn't now go there on a bet.
MAN ON FIRE is a violent and gritty shoot-'em-up that transcends most of the genre because of Denzel presence. Four and a half stars.
on April 3, 2006
Man On Fire is simply one of the best pure action/revenge movies I've ever seen. The familiar story where the hero, his life destroyed, decides to wreak Old Testament justice on the responsible parties is a mythical tale as old as Greek drama, a samurai fable brought up-to-date and which, in this case, seems peculiarly American even though it takes place in Mexico and the director is a Brit.
Tony Scott is firing on all cylinders here, and to my mind this is his best movie to date. It ranks with Unforgiven for its sheer, unapologetic demand for retribution. It's writer, Brian Helgeland (Mystic River, A Knight's Tale, L.A. Confidential), also did the lean, cool, violent (and often funny) Payback with Mel Gibson. This film eschews humor for the most part except when we experience the lightness of the banter and play between Creasy and Pita. There is no fuzziness here, no lenient judgment, no forgiveness. The best of these kinds of films are stringent and deeply, mercilessly moral. Do me bad, I'll do you double bad. This is one of those films.
Caution, SPOILERS: Once it is clear that the girl has been kidnapped and is probably dead, hand-wringing is astutely absent and dilemma is off the menu - at least in Creasy's case (and, eventually, in the mother's as well. She is played with intelligence and soul by the quietly gorgeous Rhada Mitchell).
We know going in that something bad is going to happen, and it does. And we also know that the hero will not stop in his efforts to bring justice to the bad guys. And he doesn't. Washington and Fanning are the stars of this film, and they are both superb. This is some of Washington's best work, and the young girl is an astonishing, instinctive actress. Her actual maturity is almost freakish, but it never feels anything but natural in her work. Be sure and listen to her on the bonus disc.
As to the film's look and feel, Scott and his DP, Paul Cameron (Collateral), pull out all the stops. The camera captures the moods and the moments with exquisite exactness. From Washington's character, Creasy - sitting in the dark, a defeated, weary drunk - to Fanning's Pita, impossibly happy, utterly vulnerable, exposed in the bright sun and spotlight glare of the rippling, light-dancing swimming pool - to Creasy again, no longer the protector but the avenger now...through all these changes Cameron's palette, his choice of filters, of lighting and framing, change as well. He continuously puts us into a fundamental matrix of color and shadow which seizes us and pushes our emotions to the brink. We can't help but scrutinize every wrinkle in Washington's ragged face and start at the sudden flare of light exploding off of every dark-windowed car gliding quietly and menacingly through the claustrophobic streets of Mexico City.
If you like a revenge flick that doesn't hold back on the revenge (as many films do), but that also contains time to build real people and to feel real emotions, where we see a man redeemed: once by a little girl's love and then again by blood, you can't help but like this movie.
on February 20, 2007
Definately one of my favorite films of all time. I stumbled upon this masterpiece while in serious need of having my faith in the magic of Hollywood replenished. After being dissapointed by many of Hollywood's latest titles sporting unrealistic situations and unbelievable special effects I was more than satisfied with this marvelous jewel of a film. I could tell you that the film is intended for mature audiences but that's what ratings are for. I could tell you that this film is graphically violent but it is an essential ingredient of the gripping storyline and marvelous story-telling.
The film is not only made spectacular by magnificent performances by some of Hollywood's elite but the captivating editing techniques used manage to get right down to the nitty-gritty of a good revenge flick. The originality of subtitling techniques allows one to feel more in touch with a language spoken during the film that one might not understand. A brillinat soundtrack gives one an emotional attachment to the situations and the environment the story is set in. I was deeply moved by this film and I would highly recommend it to anyone, no matter what sort of genre you prefer. This is the type of film that has major re-watch value and one always finds something new to enjoy with each veiwing of this cinematic masterpiece. Bravo, we desparately need more films that can get so in touch with the real-life emotions involved in such relationships as portrayed in this film. Buy this movie now!
Adapted from a 1980 novel by A.J. Quinnell and previously filmed as a 1987 vehicle for Scott Glenn, this re-make starts out with a random kidnapping in Mexico City of a well-off, young teen boy, flash-film storytelling of the kidnapper's dirty deed of graphically cutting off of the boy's ear that is subsequently sent to the boy's father, and a ransom drop being set up and accomplished...
Flash forward and enter Denzel Washington arriving in crime-ridden Mexico City as drunkard, burned out and severely depressed bodyguard, Creasy and Dakota Fanning (I Am Sam & Uptown Girls) as Creasy's young client and soon-to-be kidnapping victim, 9 year-old Pita.
After Creasy reticently accepts the bodyguard job he and Pita soon develop a close relationship, much to the chagrin and surprise of Creasy. During a shootout with corrupt police officers & other "bad guys", Creasy is shot within an inch of his life. Pita is abducted during the shooting and soon a ransom drop is coordinated but then terribly botched. Pita is presumably killed although no body is found.
Creasy avows to revenge the death of his young friend who made him live again, stop his drinking and made him truly happy just when Creasy was hitting rock-bottom.
Latino pop singer and Mr. Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony turns in a surprising and quite adequate performance as Pita's father, Samuel, Christopher Walken as understated Rayburn, Creasy's best friend and confidant and even Mickey Rourke as Samuel's bottom-feeding, family lawyer, Jordan. All turn in believable performances.
I am not an action film lover by any means but I truly enjoyed the story with it's ever twisting and turning plotline; no matter how predicable, the directing talents of Tony Scott (Top Gun, Crimson Tide and Mr. Ridley Scott's little brother), the flash image storytelling, overall cinematography and of course, the excellent performances from the actors - especially young Dakota Fanning's and Washington's rapport and chemistry between their two characters.
on December 5, 2005
The TV SPOT for this movie was what had me waiting for it's official release... and of course the fact that Denzel Washington and Tony Scott were the driving force behind it.
Incredibly gut-wrenching, dark and frenetic film follows the story of Denzel Washington (Creasy) who has a "horrific" past that he's trying to move away from... becomes the "body-guard" of the daughter of a business man in Mexico City. The daughter (Pita) played by Dakota Fanning [who is going to be one of the greatest actresses the world has ever seen] gives the performance of her life. Unbelievably believeable!!! Enter a host of other actors : Marc Anthony, Mickey Rourke (looking good) and Christopher Walken (always eerie and dependable - one of those actors you don't know if you like, but can't stop watching).
The story is that of the relationship that bonds Creasy and Pita and how a man who has done so much killing ; finds redemption in protecting the innocent child. The bond almost becomes that of father and daughter because Pita's father is never around. Even the nickname she gives him, "Creasy Bear" indicates her love and dependability on him.
Of course, she is kidnapped and Creasy left for dead and when Creasy finds out "she's dead" he wages WAR on all involved.
In a Scene Washinghton asks Walken : "Do you think God'll forgive us for what we've done?" and Walken replies, "No!"
Once the revenge starts and all hell breaks loose, the answer is understood. The violence is excessive and gratuitous but essential in this tale...
Creasy stops at nothing in order to bring the guilty to justice and he has absoluetly no remorse whatsoever... "Forgiveness is between them and God. It's my job to arrange the meeting."
The movie has some awesome dialogue and quotes that are going to be remembered for years to come.
Pita's mother asks Creasy : "What are you going to do?" And he replies : "What I do best. I'm gonna kill 'em. Anyone that was involved. Anybody who profited from it. Anybody who opens their eyes at me."
At over 2 hours, the movie takes us on an incredible journey... with a few surprises and an ending that will have you in tears. But at the end of the film, Walken's statement about Creasy is proven 100% true : "He'll deliver more justice in a weekend than ten years of your courts and tribunals!" and we know it... we've just watched him do it.
THIS IS THE BEST ACTION/THRILLER OF 2004 and a MUST SEE / MUST OWN!!!
on May 16, 2004
I was not planning on seeing "Man on Fire," but after reading the reviews for it, I decided to go check it out. I was pleased with the outcome. The movie was sad, action-packed, always interesting, and greatly acted. The film stars Denzel Washington, Christopher Walken, Dakota Fanning, and Radha Mitchell. In brief, "Man on Fire" is about a man who is the bodyguard of a young girl, and when she is kidnapped, he will stop at nothing to get her back, and find the people who did it, and kill them. But it is much more than that. It is a look at the affect that people could have on others, and a look at corruption, greed, and other things that could kill a man's spirit. At a running time of 146 minutes, "Man on Fire" is an epic look into what a man would do to save another person.
Denzel Washington plays John Creasy. He has just been hired to be the bodyguard to young Pita, the daughter of Samuel and Lisa Ramos, after his friend Rayburn convinced them to interview him for the job. Creasy has a drinking problem, and he tells this to Samuel before getting the job. Pita thinks that Creasy is a friend, a point that he tells her after too much friendly talk. The two eventually bond when she asks for help from him for her swimming races. Then, a problem occurs. While waiting for her to finish her piano lession, corrupt Mexican cops, and other people come and kidnap her, wounding Creasy, and leaving him under arrest for the murder of two cops. Mexican investigator Miguel Manzano knows that Creasy did not kill the cops, and with the help of him and news reporter Mariana, Creasy goes off to find revenge on the people who kidnapped Pita, and who is now reported dead.
"Man on Fire" is not a great film, but it is very entertaining and includes some powerful preformances. Denzel Washington should be nominated for an Oscar from his preformance as John Creasy, and in some scenes young Dakota Fanning steals some of the scenes from him. In reguard to the twist at the end, I did not see anything coming. It is an epic that does not actually feel long. I would see "Man on Fire" again, but I don't recommend it to all. There is some gritty, dark violence, but that is not a problem. The problem is the way the film is shot. It is always moving around, and that got a little annoying at some times. Otherwise, this was a really good film.
Rated R for language and strong violence.
on March 12, 2006
Man on Fire is the film The Punisher should've been. Raw and unflinching, it's a gripping story of revenge that doesn't pull any punches - anchored by an electrifying performance from Denzel Washington. Director Tony Scott - never one to shy away from cinematic pyrotechnics - is particularly hyperactive here, pummeling us with rapid cuts and various other Oliver Stone-esque camera tricks. But Scott's short attention span serves the story well, giving the film a slightly off-kilter feel (and effectively mirroring Washington's character's state of mind).
The film's setup is straight-forward and direct, with Washington playing John Creasy - an ex-mercenary hired to protect the daughter of a wealthy industrialist. Obviously, something goes wrong at a certain point, and Creasy finds himself forced to revive his long-since dormant military training for revenge purposes. Supporting roles are filled by reliable character actors including Christopher Walken (playing a longtime friend of Creasy's) and Mickey Rourke (as a sleazy lawyer, a character he inhabits with ease).
About the only negative thing one can say about Man On Fire - aside from the overlong running time, which doesn't feel terribly oppressive - is that it takes a really long time to get used to Scott's over-the-top directorial decisions (if at all). Certain plot points are somewhat obvious (ie Creasy's relationship with the girl goes from purely business to father figure awfully fast), but such things are expected out of a movie like this. What really matters is whether or not we believe Creasy's attachment to Pita (Dakota Fanning), the girl, and there's no denying that the film excels in that regard. Brian Helgeland's screenplay allows for an unusual amount of character development - it's around an hour before anything sinister happens - which gives us ample time to watch the two characters interact with each other.
But when the bad stuff does go down, Creasy's sudden change from cuddly teddy bear to violent man-with-a-mission is completely believable. Like Payback, another Helgeland scripted story, Man on Fire proves to be surprisingly brutal when it comes to onscreen violence. And because we're just as angry as Creasy, it's hard not to root for the man - even when he's stuffing bombs up the rear ends of perpetrators. The single-mindedness of Washington's character propels the story forward, even though the plot essentially vanishes somewhere around the one-hour mark; once the movie becomes about revenge, that's literally all it's about. There's some stuff about police corruption and a journalist that provides Creasy with info, but really, the film devotes itself to Creasy's quest.
Man on Fire is entering a marketplace that's crowded with similar films - ie The Punisher, Walking Tall, and Kill Bill: Volume 2 - and though it's not quite up there with the latter, it's surely far better than the former two titles. Washington convincingly sheds his nice guy image to become this gritty character (a character that's far less charismatic than Alonzo Harris, his Training Day persona), delivering a performance that's far different from anything he's done before. It's a film that will likely turn off a lot of viewers - primarily because of Scott's direction and the unforgiving nature of the story - but for those willing to stick with it, Man on Fire is one of the more intelligent and compelling thrillers to come around in a while.
4.5 outta' 5.
on January 13, 2007
stars Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning in made-for-them roles, this movie is a definite highlight in both their careers. I watched it in the theatre, I'm just now getting it on DVD (had to wait to find the special edition, refuse to spend money on those no-feature DVDs). It is an awesome movie - the first half has the feel of a sweet father/daughter story, the second half like a revenge story, yet it all flows together into a wonderful, touching, (and yes tear-jerker) film.
Dakota Fanning is Pita, the only daughter of Samuel and Lisa Ramos (her father is played by Marc Anthony, who is brilliant in his role as the tortured father). Denzel plays Creasy, the bodyguard hired to protect Pita as kidnappings of wealthy children in Mexico City is on the rise. He has his demons, and resists Pita's charms for a while, but is soon won over by her sweet disposition and unconditional love. Pita loves Creasy, how could he not love her back. With her parents gone so much on business, Creasy becomes a second father to her. And then the unthinkable - a kidnapping attempt.
Not saying another word, other than Mickey Rourke as the lawyer and Christopher Walken as Denzel's ex-military friend Rayburn are brilliant casting decisions, and this is an awesome movie. Very cool effects in some of the action scenes, you often feel you are in Creasy's head.
As to the special features on this DVD - bravo. This is the way special features should be done. On disk 1 is the main feature along with a choice of 2 commentaries - one by the director, the other by the writer, the producer, and Dakota Fanning. She is adorable to listen to on her take throughout the movie. The writer and the producer do their jobs well both putting in other relevant information and guiding her through the thought process so she shares what we'll be interested in. The only thing that could have been added was to include Denzel on the commentary, even if they had to edit him in rather than have him on site while they recorded. On disk 2 are 33 minutes of deleted scenes, with option director commentary, a 6 part documentary on the making of the film which includes cast interviews (and even Denzel is interviewed), an alternate ending, a series of camera angles for the kidnapping scene, music video, and other production features such as storyboarding. Audio is available in English, Spanish and French.