Man on Fire (2004)

ManonFireThe remake of the 1987 obscure action flick with Scott Glenn, Denzel Washington takes the mantle this time around as Creasy, an ex-soldier whose committed gruesome crimes and is desperately trying to seek penance and is constantly haunted by the fact of his crimes. He applies for a job to guard a very important business man’s daughter since there have been a rash of kidnappings under the rule of a mysterious mob boss, but when she’s Creasy is ambushed, shot down, and blamed, the girl kidnapped. he’s now on the hunt to find her and will stop at nothing to make all the people involved suffer miserably. I’ve never seen the original film starring Scott Glenn, so advantage: Hollywood, but that doesn’t mean this movie was anywhere near a ball to watch, especially since it’s far from anything I expected. You know, like a movie with a plot? What, you say, there is a plot! Show me it and I’ll credit you.

This film’s plot was minimal at best and pretty hard to catch amidst all the violence. Now, like any guy with enough sense, I like action films, I love them, and I have nothing against on-screen violence–when it’s done right. It’s permissible but only if you use it wisely and when it applies to the story. It doesn’t and it’s not even stylized violence to boot. Much of it was gratuitous and I have a big problem with that, because how thin is the line between action violence and a snuff film? And this basically played out as a lightweight snuff film with a decent cast. This is a revenge movie, plain and simple, something I’ve seen a thousand and one times before, and I was disappointed that it never turned out to be more than that. The screenwriters try really hard to make it more than what it really is, but there’s just no kidding anyone, especially the audience; it’s just another revenge flick. The saving grace that kept me from writing it off completely was Washington who is a stone cold killer and is scary as Creasy who tortures, and inflicts pain without conflict of conscience, and he is very effective here in his character and never goes over the top with his sheer thirst for blood.

Washington is amazing and he just demands attention from his audience whenever he’s on – screen. For a man who is so liked in Hollywood, it’s hard to believe he can play such an amazing anti-hero who is often without conscience. To add to the credits we’re given some top-notch acting talent including the bad-ass Mickey Rourke, Chris Walken, and the always likable Radha Mitchell who plays Pita’s mother. But the really good aspect of the film is Washington, and his chemistry with Fanning is smooth and often times a lot of fun to watch, like when he’s coaching her on how to fail a piano audition and in winning a swimming race. Washington is a great choice here, and I loved this dude. A lot of people seem to have a problem with Dakota Fanning, maybe its the fact she’s too good an actress for her age, too intelligent, or too well versed in grammar, but a lot of people cant get past those facts, but for me, I don’t know, I can’t help liking this little girl. She’s just too adorable here. But poor Tony Scott approaches this film with zero energy and a lot of pretention.

For a movie that’s basically just striking against those who wronged one man, this is really pompous in both its visuals and directing style. Scott looks like he tries to go beyond the guise of simple revenge story and just fails like a weak puppy performing tricks for its master. It’s too scattered visually, with unnecessary subtitles and choppy editing, and that whole trick where the characters speak and it comes out on screen like subtitles was all lost on me and had zero effect on my experience towards this. It was dumb to have the character Creasy speak and then his words would materialize on-screen. Was that supposed to be an effect for drama, and was it even supposed to be impressive? The film itself deals with the all too disturbing reality of kidnapping which is at a basic high in Mexico, and also manages to tackle police corruption within the folds of its story, and this time Washington goes back into the skin of the stone cold killer with Creasy who has a really dark past to him and is trying to make amends for it but is failing. When Pita (Fanning) is kidnapped, it sets off his darkside and now seeks out vengeance.

For Creasy, protecting this girl and getting her back is not only his duty, but its his one chance at redeeming his soul for his crimes of the past, and in his attempt to seek justice he will gladly return to the darkside to get what he wants and save an innocent soul, and man does he ever go to his darkside, hunting down all that are connected to the kidnapping of Pita and he tortures them so badly, you will surely squirm in your seat. Scott also tries his hand at further increasing the lagging intelligence of the movie with metaphors and symbolism, all of which are promptly lost within the folds of the graphic violence that neither made sense nor had any relevance to the progression of the plot. Scott tries too hard to look like Ridley Scott’s films with similar and derivative style, and hazy cinematography that is all too often shown in Ridley’s films and is not pleasing to the eye. I felt very unfulfilled toward the movie in general with hazy filmmaking, sub-plots that were hardly focused on, and a few plot inconsistencies (Are we supposed to believe Fanning is part Hispanic?). Regardless, it’s nothing worth remembering.