"Some children, like Dakota Fanning, just need to be kindnapped."
“Man on Fire” is another vigilante-seeks-vengeance flick; a trend that has marked released dates all year long. There’s been excellence in the “Kill Bill” saga, disappointment with “The Punisher” and the surprisingly engaging remake of “Walking Tall.” Even though there are more movies in this genre than necessary, exemplified with four sequels to the Charles Bronson classic “Death Wish”, revenge movies have become so lasting because they consistently offer fleeting hours of guilty pleasure entertainment. “Man on Fire” has that absorbing quality for most of its overlong running time but is ultimately disposable high-octane action fare, destined to become a darling of weekend afternoon line-ups on cable.The hero here is Creasy, a bodyguard with a tortured soul played by Denzel Washington, burdened with guilt from years of doing assassinations around the world for the government. The movie opens with a statistic about frequent kidnappings in Latin America, most of which seeming to originate from Mexico City. Creasy is hired as a precautionary measure to protect the young daughter, Pita, of a rich industrialist. Thankfully the girl is kidnapped- Dakota Fanning encompasses a cuteness that is vomit-inducing- and Creasy sets out to dismantle the network of criminals and corrupt cops responsible.
“Man on Fire” was directed by Tony Scott, who is identified for being the lesser-talented Scott brother to Ridley and consistently proves it with ho-hum thrillers like “Enemy of the State” and “Spy Game.” There is a lot to like in any given Tony Scott movie, but there’s always a flaw that cancels most of the quality out. Here Scott has saturated “Man on Fire” with way too much style, a visual overkill that can become unbearable and distracting. There are constant fast cuts, jump cuts and fast-to-slow motion montages that often are overwhelming. Scott even toys around with the subtitles, instead of leaving them at the bottom of the frame the lines can sometimes come from a character’s mouth like in a comic book. “Man on Fire” has a razor-thin plot and Tony Scott fails in attempting to mask it with overblown visual techniques.
The visual approach may bring about headaches and seizures that take the viewer out of the movie, but overall “Man on Fire” remains a rather absorbing proceeding. Credit largely goes to the screen presence of Denzel Washington, and it’s welcome to see Gero Camilo from “City of God” show up in a small but important role. But unfortunately “Man on Fire” wears too thin, it has a good stopping point but tacks on the loose-end explanation making the movie run at an unneccessary 146 minutes.“Man on Fire” has a good cast, including the always-entertaining Christopher Walken and Mickey Rourke, an engaging story but bludgeons the audience too much with its high-powered style. It just doesn’t work out.