Man on Fire


A man... can be an artist... in anything. In food, whatever... it depends on how good he is... at it. Creasy's art is death... he's about to paint his masterpiece.

Recently released to DVD is Man on Fire, Tony Scottís vivid, knock-you-from-your-lazyboy retelling of John W. Creasy, and the job he takes that changes everything.

Creasyís conscience torments him night and day. A former soldier/agent/etc., the memories of those he's killed are catching up with him. Battling alcoholism, he finds himself unable to keep a job. He visits an old buddy in Mexico (Christopher Walken, who delivers some classic lines), and is offered a position as bodyguard to Lupita "Pita" Ramos, the daughter of a wealthy couple living in Latin America, (where we learn that a kidnapping occurs once an hour). And the story unfolds.

Various synopsis will describe Denzelís character slightly differently, (thereís no such thing as a formerÖ) Marine, former federal agent, retired assassin, etc. Whatever his background, by the time we catch up with him, he is deeply troubled by what heís done during his career, and is in serious need of some grace and mercy. He finds that in the protection of a little girl, played ridiculously well by Dakota Fanning. Most adult actors never reach the believability of 10-year-old Fanning.

The spark for Creasy comes after waking from the inevitable kidnapping and nearly dying from multiple gun shot wounds, when he's told that a ransom drop went horribly wrong, and that Pita is dead. While still hemorrhaging, he begins to extract vengeance on a scale which pales in comparison to the rage inside him.

Yeah, yeah, this is a guy flick. Lots of stuff blowing up. Get over it.

The cinematography in Fire is wildly beautiful, stylish, very quick, and probably too jerky for anyone who canít read in a moving car. It all works very, very well with the story. Tony Scottís work is excellent. Not everyone is crazy about the editing, but I loved it.

This may not be an easy film to watch for some people, especially if you have kids. There's enough violence, torture and death to make anyone look for a word stronger than "gratuitous". Itís designed to grab you, to hit you in the gut, to make you feel, etc. You empathize with this enormous loss that Creasy feels. You can almost taste his rage. In some ways this kid offered him salvation, or at least led him to it. The viewer ends up able to justify every ounce of violence. Ultimately itís not vengeance that Creasy is unloading. Itís justice. The ending is bittersweet.

Denzel Washington continues to impress. Just when you expect another Virtuosity, he delivers brilliantly, like in Courage Under Fire, Training Day, and Philadelphia. His performance in Man on Fire is on par with some of his other bone-crushing performances. Itís no wonder why he has been nominated five times and twice earned an Academy Award. Denzel delivers.

There's also some scene-stealing by Mr. Cow Bell himself, Christopher Walken. Not to neglect the other efforts by Marc Anthony, Mickey Rourke, and Radha Mitchell (Phone Booth, Pitch Black).

Fire reminds me a lot of the Replacement Killers, although, from both an acting and a visual standpoint, they donít have much in common. Where Yun-Fat Chowís character in Killers seemed to be almost lighter than air, Washingtonís character is down to earth. Creasy is a tank: virtually unstoppable.

Some critics might have said some unkind things about this film. The bastards strike again! Forget them. Itís possible one or two websites also might have given this movie a less-than-favorable rating. Those [string of expletives] at rotten tomatoes will have to answer one day. Just ask Creasy.

This is simultaneously a great movie that's not for everyone. The story behind the action means its more than a collection of explosions and shell casings. It reminds you, in the words of The Voice, that thereís nothing more important than family. Brian Helgelandís screenplay is based on A.J. Quinnellís novel, which I suspect is well-worth the read. Unfortunately the DVD's special features are limited to two commentaries. Like some behind-the-scenes footage, outtakes or cast & crew interviews would have broke the bank. *Sigh* It's disappointing from a medium we've come to expect more from. Fox really dropped the ball here.

Rating: 5/5: drop everything and go rent this puppy

5/5: Drop everything and go see it today
4/5: Definitely worth seeing in theaters
3/5: Easily worth the price of the matinee
2/5: Last Choice at Blockbuster
1/5: Keep your money, stay home & channel surf


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