"Man on Fire"
Directed by Tony Scott.
Written by Brian Helgeland. Based on the novel by A.J.
Starring Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning and Christopher Walken.
Release Year: 2004
Review Date: 4/25/04
There's a distinct moment of change in the
new Tony Scott film "Man on Fire" where a former soldier-of-fortune,
John Creasy (Denzel Washington), is talking to the mother (Radha
Mitchell) of the little girl that Creasy has been assigned to
protect. You see, the little girl, Pita (Dakota Fanning), has
been kidnapped by thugs in Mexico City, and although Creasy seems
like a nice enough guy, he tells the mother how he's going to get
the girl back from the kidnappers.
Mom: "What are you going to do?"
Creasy: "Anybody that gets in my way, anybody that was
involved in the kidnapping...anybody that blinks an eye at
me...I'm gonna kill 'em."
Then, this hard rock music plays over the
soundtrack, and Creasy goes out to do just that: get Pita back
at any cost. Along the way, lots of otherwise nice Mexicans
get maimed, stabbed, blown up, tortured, shot and burned as Creasy
starts a small war with dirty Mexican cops, politicians, and
But, before this, the movie was so
different; at times, in fact, it was quite a nice tale of redemption
for a man that has nothing to live for; when Creasy meets Pita, he
warms to her quite slowly. Creasy has (naturally) an alcohol
problem, no family, and is a decorated covert operative that has
killed so many people that he has tried to get "out of the
game"...but the game keeps pulling him back IN!! When he takes
an assignment from an old former soldier (Christopher Walken,
chewing on a hambone as he "acts" in his scenes) to protect the
little girl, Creasy goes from insensitive soldier to loving
bodyguard in just a few days...and, these scenes between Creasy and
Pita are the best sequences in the movie. A great scene that
details Creasy's difficulty in managing a smile with the little girl
will make even the stingiest of bastards grin. For the first
hour of the film, nobody has to die, everybody seems reasonably
happy, and you can feel yourself getting set up for something
terrible, which occurs when Pita is kidnapped by a dozen thugs who
attack and leave Creasy for dead.
Then, the movie changes so drastically that
when Creasy is torturing a suspect ten minutes after a ransom scene,
some folks in my theater were a little (understatement) uneasy as
Denzel does the hard-edged bit that worked so well in
Director Tony Scott, who employed many of the exact same filmmaking
tactics in "Spy Game",
seems to love this scatterbrain, dizzy, MTV-style filmmaking
technique, which has become his modus operandi over the last ten
years since his glory days of "Top Gun" and "Beverly Hills Cop 2."
Hey, if you like revenge flicks, then "Man on Fire" goes into
overdrive as one baddie after another gets it the hard way, some of
which is just good times, like when one guy...well, there's a
remote, a timer, and a pager, and by the time Creasy takes off those
I wasn't in love with the ending, but the
146-minute film is never slow, and it has great movie moments
scattered throughout, like a throwaway where the Walken character is
sitting on a park bench, and he spends five seconds staring at some
senorita's ass. Or when Mickey Rourke, as (you guessed it) a
dirty American lawyer, drops jewels like "Just tell that prick to
blankety-blank-blank." Or the requisite sequence where
Creasy--who has "connections"--hits the local gun-runner's house, to
load up on roughly 20 firearms, a thousand rounds of ammunition, a
dozen grenades and a rocket launcher...JUST IN CASE shit gets live.
(As you can imagine, he uses not even 5% of all of this; why do
characters always go to the gun-runner's house to get all of these
weapons, only to use one handgun and the sawed-off??? Chi, I
want some answers.)
I thought "Man on Fire" was a good time.
It never aspires to greatness, but it doesn't bog you down with
details, just the way daddy likes it.
Rating: $9.50 Show
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Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard