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Denzel Cleans House!

  • Oct 28, 2004
  • by
Pros: Style, acting, acting, acting.

Cons: Length, violence

The Bottom Line: After all the bodies are counted, and all of the blood mopped from the floor, Man on Fire was worth the time spent engaging in this form of Hollywood artistry.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.

I have to admit that I hesitated before going to see Man on Fire despite the Denzel Washington’s lead role, as well, the man on fire. Why the hesitation you might ask? Because of the violent undertones of the film, I would answer. Contrary to popular belief, not all men feed off of violence like it was a hungry-man dinner. Now don’t get me wrong, I like to see the occasional explosion, and I love, love, love good sword play, but violence for violence sake turns me off, as it would any sane person, male of female.

But last weekend was one of those lazy we have nothing to do so let’s rent some movies kind of weekend, and so Man on Fire made it into my cart.

Directed by Tony Scott (Top Gun, Crimson Tide, Spy Game), Man on Fire open in a Mexico City that is rife with kidnappings and corruption; in fact at least four abductions are being perpetrated a day by an organized gang led by (we later learn) the Mexico Police Department’s own anti-kidnapping task force. Mexican businessman, Samuel portrayed by multi-talented Marc Anthony in his first feature film, and his American wife, Lisa portrayed by Australian actress Radha Mitchell (Dead Heat, Phone Booth) are in the market for a new bodyguard, to replace the one they recently fired. He is to protect their charming and precocious 10-year old daughter Lupita (Pita), portrayed with stunning aplomb by Dakota Fanning (I Am Sam, Sweet Home Alabama, Uptown Girls).
Samuel turns to his lawyer, Jordan, portrayed by Mickey Rourke (Body Heat, Angel Heart, Nine ½ Weeks) to help him find a new body guard, and Jordan in turn contacts Rayburn portrayed by Christopher Walken (The Dead Zone, A View to a Kill, Batman Returns). Enter Oscar winner Denzel Washington (Glory, Courage Under Fire, Training Days) and his character Creasy a very disturbed, very burned out ex-Special Forces solider whose training and past exploits have left him wallowing in a daily dose of alcoholic self-medication that help him fight off the demons dancing in his head.
He accepts the job from his old running mate Rayburn in an effort to excise the ghosts and goblins of the past and forge a new path in life. Having met Samuel and Lisa Creasy is hired, and then meets his charge, 10-year old, 'Pita, a sweet charmer of a girl with a fast and inquisitive mind. She attempts to befriend Creasy but he rejects her initial attempts preferring to stay detached from the girl. But eventually Pita melts the ice that has formed around his heart and he forms a bond with her, an in a long drawn out sequence Creasy helps the girl win her swim meet.

But just as the relationship deepens, we get the inescapable feeling that something bad is going to happen; when and where, are the haunting questions. We know Pita will be kidnapped; the mystery is how and why Creasy can’t stop it from happening. When it finally does happen, Creasy manages to take out four corrupt cops before being shot trice. End game, Pita gets snatched, Creasy is in intensive care.. Laid up in the hospital, near death, the Mexico City Police gunning for him for killing four of their (corrupt) own, Creasy is rescued by Rayburn. He later learns that the $20 million ransom exchange between the Mexican Police and the kidnappers went bad and that Pita is dead. Creasy an assassin vows to avenge her death, and promises Lisa to dispatch anyone who had anything to do with the kidnapping. But he never fully recovers from the gunshot wounds; he is still bleeding, and as the movie progresses, you know Creasy in living on barrowed time.

Creasy’s woes come to the attention of a tenacious local newspaper reporter Mariana, portrayed by Rachel Ticotin (Fort Apache the Bronx, One Good Cop, Con Air) who offers the assassin inside information on the organization known as the "hermanidades," who are responsible for kidnapping Pita. They are above the law, but with Mariana’s help Creasy sets out to terminate—in the most creative ways—the members of the gang, one-by-one, torturing some in the most gruesome ways before he exterminates then with heartless abandon, and ruthless determination.

My Impressions

Clocking in at two hours and 20 minutes, Man on Fire is long and at times tiresome, but once the action starts, once Creasy is on fire, the movie plows alone at an oft-time dizzying pace. Spliced throughout this film is a hodgepodge of jerking camera motions and flashes of sub-titled dialog which float upon the screen repeating themselves with an echoing effect. This is at first distracting, but as the film unfolds, a natural rhythm slithers upon the screen, and the words flashing dialog helps the film do its business. But it is through these visual interplays that Tony Scott creates an appropriately nightmarish, apocalyptic, decidedly unromantic vision of the Mexico City; indeed after seeing Man on Fire, you might re-think your plans to visit Latin America.

Washington and Fanning are individually amazing; they have an undeniable chemistry and they are given almost a full hour to establish their relationship before things turn ugly, and sorted. It is rumored that Robert De Niro, Will Smith, and Bruce Willis were all offered the role of Creasy. Frankly I don’t see any of them in the role; Denzel brings such intensity to the role that none but Washington could possibly do the role of Creasy justice.

Towards the end I, I found myself willing the movie to end already. And to be quite honest the ending left me a little disappointed. I wanted a classic Hollywood happy ending and what I got was real life. But after all the bodies are counted, and all of the blood mopped from the floor, Man on Fire was worth the time spent engaging in this new form of Hollywood artistry.


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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More Man on Fire reviews
Quick Tip by . March 21, 2010
Makes me wonder if justice can only be brought about by paying a hefty price! What a corrupted world!
review by . November 06, 2009
I haven't seen the 1987 original that inspired this excellent and brilliant 2004 remake. But after seeing this one I don't think I want to see the original. Tony Scott has, in my opinion, finally crafted an emotionally soaring and brilliant intense action film that blends the both drama and mind blowing action sequences into one seamless and beautifully crafted film.            Man on Fire is as smart as it is ruthless and cunning. It's got the great style …
review by . November 15, 2008
Man On Fire
Revenge movies are so popular because we all like to feel that warm fuzzy of satisfaction when the guilty reprobate responsible for causing all that pain to our hero is finally blown up into tiny bloody pieces. It's a comfortable feeling of validation that makes us glow with a delightful feeling of righteous fulfillment. Right?     Man On Fire is not necessarily a great movie, but it is a great revenge movie, unique in its choice of location, actors, and resolution; and that …
review by . July 09, 2007
Pros: Unique - and I always do enjoy vengeful hero movies     Cons: A little long, camera editing/shots could have been less     The Bottom Line: "Creasy's art is death....and he's about to paint his masterpiece."     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot. After going to see The Punisher and deciding it kicked major you-know-what, I sort of expected this to be the same sort of thing, i.e. guy gets ticked …
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Vincent Martin ()
Ranked #187
I am an IT Professional and have worked in the industry for over 20 years. I may be a computer geek, but I also like reading, writing, cooking, music, current events and regretfully, politics.
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About this movie


Starring Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Marc Anthony, Christopher Walken, Mickey Rourke
Directed by Tony Scott
Writer:  Brian Helgeland
Based on the novel Man On Fire by A.J. Quinnell

Product Description
Hard-drinking, burnt-out ex-CIA operative John Creasy (Washington) has given up on life--until his friend Rayburn (Oscar winner Christopher Walken) gets him a job as a bodyguard to nine-year-old Pita Ramos (Dakota Fanning). Bit by bit, Creasy begins to reclaim his soul, but when Pita is kidnapped, Creasy unleashes a firestorm of apocalyptic vengeance against everyone responsible.
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Director: Tony Scott
Genre: Action, Drama, Adventure
Release Date: April 21, 2004
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 1hr 50min
Studio: Fox 2000 Pictures, Regency Enterprises
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