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MAN ON FIRE, 2004
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MAN ON FIRE,     MOVIE POSTERMAN ON FIRE, 2004
Movie Reviews

Directed by Tony Scott
Starring Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Marc Anthony, Christopher Walken and Mickey Rourke
Review by Andrew Kosarko


SYNOPSIS:

John Creasy (Denzel Washington) is a lost soul. A former government operative, he has become an alcoholic nomad, searching for inspiration and redemption. An old friend (Christopher Walken) who lives in Mexico gets Creasy a job as a bodyguard for nine-year-old Lupita "Pita" Ramos (Dakota Fanning), the daughter of Mexican Samuel (Marc Anthony) and his American wife Lisa (Radha Mitchell). Creasy's primary job is to protect Pita from the kidnapping attempts that are an increasing menace to the children of Mexico City's wealthy. A man of few words and many secrets, Creasy initially balks at Pita's attempts to befriend him, but soon a bond grows between the precocious child and this lonely man who is tormented by his past. When Pita is kidnapped despite Creasy's valiant attempts to save her, he will do anything to bring all of those involved to justice. His fury unravels a net of almost unimaginable corruption and greed in the process.

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REVIEW:

This action film has more than just action – a great story with strong characterization. I’m sure there hasn’t been an action film in a good long while where you go a half hour into it before an explosion or gunfire unloads. The story and violence are met with great acting and emotional strength.

The Story: I cannot think of an action movie that goes 45 minutes without a malicious gunshot or explosion. It’s uncanny. This story is like a well blended smoothie. You have the perfection of balance between the flavors. There is comedy, drama, romance, and thrills for the first 45 minutes. All of these things create a well balanced and three dimensional world in which our characters operate. The second half of the film is completely full of anger and violence – this qualifying it into an action genre. Characterization is also key and when it could have been weak, the casting was done strong enough to make it stand out and be personable. I cannot think of one thing wrong in this story. Even the ending is completely justified. This film makes Punisher and Sin City look like kids play.

Acting: Denzel at his most badass. Christopher Walken at one of his best supporting roles. The two make an unlikely pair, sure. But it’s effective and never over done. They’re not holding hands the whole film and they play well of each other. Dakota Fanning is usually one of those actresses that bother me, but she does a wonderful job in this film. Her and Denzel have a unique on screen chemistry that is simply perfect. How this cast was decided is beyond me, but again, there is no wrong turns. Never once.

Directing: This is by far Tony Scott’s greatest film to date. Every moment is engaging and interesting. There is a strong emotional connection between characters and with the audience. There is wonderful pacing and art direction and painstaking detail paid into every piece of this film.

Cinematography: Flashy. Zoomy. Color…y. Overall it can be a bit over stylized if you’re in the wrong mood to watch it. But if it’s a warm day, matching the tones provided to the Mexican world, colorized by dirty greens and oranges – it’s perfect. The intent of the cinematography is to light the world you see and provide a mood. The colors reflect that. The grime of the film makes the movie even more real when you watch it. The zoom is a bit annoying but you grow into it as the film goes on. Every move is justified by an image that provides further insight into the film.

Production Design: I wouldn’t so much say there is “design” as so much as “located”. I believe everything in this film was real – to some extent. I know that some things were fake but in still – modeled after real objects. There’s not a moment I blink and think differently. An “authentic” design if anything.

Editing: Strong. And that’s a word that’s hard to locate about for editing in an action film. The stylized jump editing while using flashes from the film reels just add to the grit and reality of the story and the world we’re encountering. And better yet, the editing building tension and emotion around the individual scenes and the film as a whole.

Score: Here’s one thing that never gets much props in action films. And I don’t mean in a conventional sense, but there is a mix of Mexican scores, Mexican pop music, rave music, Spanish dubbed American pop music, rave music, conventional score and then a 9 Inch Nails track that is repeated throughout. What’s even more amazing, aside that they all work together, is

that there are moments when one type of music is playing in the world that the scene takes place with the score over it. One is not lowered and the other not raised. And yet, the power of the conventional score takes precedence and emotional weight in the scene. How that is accomplished, I will never understand – and I almost don’t want to so that I can continue to enjoy those moments on repeat viewings.

Special Effects: just like I stated about production design, I believe everything here to be authentic. The editing and cinematography obviously save the death scenes but in some instances there is very violent and gruesome effects that occur. And yet, Scott never oversteps the tone and helps continue telling the story.

In closing: Man on Fire is a phenomenal movie that moves swiftly through the rhythms of storytelling, never missing a step. The emotional weight carried by the actors is by far some of the best in action cinema history and very compelling. It’s ending is fully justified, emotionally satisfying and helps to dissuade any possibility of a franchise being started. Lord knows that would only bastardize this movie. And while other critics feel that the 2nd half’s violence kills the movie, I feel like it is exactly what needs to happen. This is very much a “man’s” movie. It has all the essential “honor” aspects that go along with it that most men characterize as “the right thing to do.” If you and your buddies want a good, emotionally gripping film with explosions that mean something everytime…this is the film.

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