Man On Fire

I’m not sure if it’s a knee jerk reaction to the current climate of feeling helpless, but Hollywood has once again embraced the vigilante. With local, national and international fears constantly on the front burner of our collective minds, it’s no wonder we look to the movies to take back control of our lives. Sure, it may just be a cinematic fix, but when we are reduced to fear junkies, any fix will do.


Audiences who recently mainlined “Walking Tall,” “The Punisher,” “Kill Bill, Volume 2″and “Connie and Carla” (okay that last one was a cheap shot) will find more of the same on display in “Man On Fire,” director Tony Scott’s stylish exercise in truth, trust and terrorism. Based on A.J. Quinnell’s 1980 novel, “Man On Fire” benefits from a strong performance by Denzel Washington as an ex-CIA operative working as the personal bodyguard for the daughter of a Mexican industrialist.

Scott has been hot to make “Man on Fire” for two decades, even being forced to watch an inferior 1987 film beat him to the screen. With a long-in-the-tooth script by Brian Helgeland, Scott’s film remains relevant. It examines the current political mood in Mexico that encourages corruption, turning citizens and foreigners into financial targets. Hiring bodyguards isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.

The problem has become so prevalent it has opened doors for ex-agents like John Creasy (Washington), a man who drinks too much, doesn’t like kids, and is the perfect candidate to protect Pita (Dakota Fanning) the sweet, adorable and extremely inquisitive daughter of industrialist Samuel Ramos (singer Marc Anthony) and his American wife Lisa (Radha Mitchell).

Reluctant to accept the assignment, John is eventually won over by Pita, who treats him more like a best friend than a paid employee. Pita is the flame that melts the ice surrounding John’s heart, so when she’s kidnapped by the local corrupt police, he makes it his mission to bring Pita back alive and punish those who kidnapped her.

Helgeland spends an inordinate amount of time setting up the relationship between John and Pita, and to the actor’s credit these moments do manage to tug at the heart strings, but they only aid in making the film’s 142 minute running time a real chore to sit through. It’s not like we don’t get it, and still the filmmakers pound every plot device over our heads like a sledgehammer.

When we’re not dodging the blows, what we’re left with is actually a good film trapped inside a Charles Bronson movie.

Revenge is best served cold

MAN ON FIRE

Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Marc Anthony, Radha Mitchell, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Giannini, Rachel Ticotin, Mickey Rourke. Directed by Tony Scott. Rated R. 142 Minutes.

LARSEN RATING: $5.00



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