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Overall Rating
3.73

Awesome35.4%
Worth A Look: 30.43%
Average: 15.53%
Pretty Bad: 8.7%
Total Crap: 9.94%

8 reviews, 113 user ratings


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Man on Fire (2004)
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by Stephen Groenewegen

"Revenge can be murderous"
2 stars

“Creasy’s art is death”, intones Christopher Walken reverently, speaking of the ex-CIA assassin and titular Man on Fire. “He’s about to paint his masterpiece”. Well, Man on Fire itself is certainly no masterpiece. For his latest exercise in flash-trash, director Tony Scott (Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Spy Game) returns to the scene of his 1990 crime, the odious Kevin Costner vehicle Revenge. Man on Fire is another sadistic and brutal retribution thriller set in Mexico.

Creasy (Denzel Washington) is a washed-out drunk when he calls on his buddy Rayburn (Walken) in El Paso. In an effort to rejuvenate his friend, Rayburn convinces Creasy to take a job as bodyguard in Mexico City, where the kidnapping of wealthy family members is an epidemic. Creasy’s charge, Pita Ramos (Dakota Fanning), is the bubbly nine year-old offspring of a strained marriage between struggling businessman Samuel Ramos (Marc Anthony) and his glamorous American wife (Australian Radha Mitchell).

With persistence, Pita gradually penetrates Creasy’s gruff exterior. Before long, he’s drinking a bit less and smiling a lot more. Then the inevitable happens - Pita is abducted during a vicious ambush. Not even a collapsed lung and gunshots to the chest and abdomen can slow Creasy in his Terminator-style quest to mercilessly slaughter each and every person connected to the kidnapping.

Man on Fire is adapted from a 1980 novel by AJ Quinnell that spawned three more thrillers featuring the Creasy character. Scott and adaptor Brian Helgeland (Mystic River, A Knight’s Tale) shifted the context from Mafia-driven Italian abductions to organised crime and police corruption in Mexico. Mexico is apparently ranked third in the world in kidnappings, and a portentous opening title informs us that one takes place every hour in Latin America and that 70% of victims do not survive. Unofficially assisting Creasy in his quest are a crusading investigative journalist (Rachel Ticotin) and an honest Mexican cop (Giancarlo Giannini) from the Agency for Federal Investigation.

Scott is apparently highly adept at every directorial technique except holding a camera still. His penchant for gimmicky visual and aural tricks is beyond irritating here because it is mostly inappropriate and most definitely overused. He slows down and speeds up movement, reverses film stocks, layers multiple exposures and employs whirling and multiple cameras to dizzying effect. All this helps to make the inordinate two hour and 40 minute running time pass a little quicker, and it ratchets up the tension during the extended kidnapping.

Elsewhere, it’s a problem. Since Scott overdoses on whiz-bang tomfoolery during the establishing scenes, we get very little calm before the abduction storm. It also detracts from any stillness in Washington’s performance. We don’t get close enough to him to understand why he goes to such violent extremes in the second half of the film. I don’t want to empathise with a ruthless killer, but I’d like a deeper understanding of his motivation. At other times, Scott’s techniques are plain foolish. His idea of an operatic scene is blasting an aria at high volume on the soundtrack (as he does with Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma”, to accompany Creasy’s first assassination).

Buried amidst all the colour and movement are some fine supporting performances. Radha Mitchell gives another superb take on an anguished wife (following similarly strong work in Phone Booth). She makes a potentially loathsome character all the more appealing. It’s wonderful to see Christopher Walken as a good guy for once; Rayburn is charming, loyal and refreshingly carefree. Walken’s craggy features belie his lightness of step in the role. Rachel Ticotin's steady determination adds integrity to her subplot. Frustratingly, Scott leaves her fate unresolved.

The righteous justice and bloodlust of Man on Fire becomes sickening. A scene in which Creasy tortures his first victim by breaking his fingers and slashing his face with a knife goes on and on. Creasy is the all-American judge, jury and executioner. Of the other American characters, Ramos’ wife is Creasy’s strongest supporter and Rayburn likens his murderous spree to the work of an artist. It’s hard not to detect the subtext here, as an American single-handedly and bloodily makes a foreign country safe for other Americans. No wonder the film caught on in the United States - wouldn’t it be nice if American intervention in countries like Iraq could be this simple?

The capper has to be the closing title that credits Mexico as “a very special place”. In case you were tempted to change your holiday plans after the horrendous picture Scott paints of the country. Perhaps, buried under all of Scott’s bluster, there is a sense of irony after all.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=9269&reviewer=104
originally posted: 06/07/04 13:30:10
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User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell dull slow revenge thriller wildly overrated 1 stars
4/16/14 Charles Tatum A huge surprise. 5 stars
10/23/09 the dork knight decent enough thriller, though undercooked. Walken quotes make for required viewing 4 stars
7/09/09 Jeff Wilder One of the best recent action thrillers plus a superb performance by Denzel Washington. 4 stars
1/27/09 LYNDON DOWLING POWER HOUSE PERFORMANCE BY DENZEL. DAKOTA SHINES, GREAT SUPPORTING CAST. 5 stars
8/27/08 Shaun Wallner The storyline is well made! 5 stars
5/21/08 PAUL SHORTT MEAN SPIRITED REVENGE THRILLER WITH A HERO WHO POSSESSES THE SENSIBILITY OF A CORNERED RAT 1 stars
3/08/08 Kaz Corner Brlliant entertainent 5 stars
3/03/08 ladavies not my favorite Denzel movie, but ok. 3 stars
2/02/08 Chris Crappy movie, just the story itself combined with Tony Scotts directing make it unwatchable 1 stars
7/26/07 Shawna Blake thats my favorite movie, denzel is such a good actor 5 stars
12/14/06 R.W.Welch Has a certain aura but a shade artsy. Ending is a bit much. 3 stars
12/14/06 Creasy Bear do what you do best.....kill them all.... 5 stars
11/25/06 MP Bartley It's a migraine in celluloid film. 2 stars
7/09/06 Dan Loved it, much better then that piece of crap Kill Bill. 5 stars
6/05/06 Erika This Movie Absolutly Rocks Creasy is a great man!!! 5 stars
2/21/06 Agent Sands Above average action entertainment. 5 stars
1/10/06 Michael Fast, who done it, get them back 4 stars
10/08/05 Jonathon Holmes another option if the "Kill Bill" movies are out of stock at Blockbuster 4 stars
9/04/05 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne Guess this had a big enough blast from the ass to keep EricDSnider from even reviewing it! 4 stars
8/22/05 Regina George didn't really survive the school bus accident Based on true story? Confusing end details on screen, but usual disclaimer. 4 stars
8/21/05 chris hagopian Very good, inspiring although a little cynical 5 stars
7/30/05 hoosier daddy Its about a killer redeemed by using evil tools for good. Deal with it. 5 stars
6/06/05 Helen Bradley Faced paced thriller is a 'death watch' style great acting all round 5 stars
5/03/05 J K Rowling great movie 4 stars
4/20/05 Indrid Cold This should have been fantastic, but somehow it becomes dreary and unsatisfying. 3 stars
3/31/05 Dan GREAT MOVIE! 5 stars
3/27/05 Jack Sommersby Well-acted but absurdly overlong and just plain absurd. 2 stars
3/09/05 Doremimi Great performances, but this movie is ugly simply for ugliness' sake, and WAY too long. 3 stars
3/06/05 axefell Revenge is a pure animalistic drive, you either feelin it or you ain't. I'm a sanguinous MF 5 stars
3/01/05 THY FURY I enjoyed very much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
2/21/05 Captain Craig Very violent and sadly very true. Not for the fait hearted viewer. 4 stars
1/22/05 Tjalda L. Schiel Badly filmed and edited brutality galore. Very dispiriting garbage. 1 stars
1/05/05 HotGirl LOVED IT! 5 stars
11/28/04 Pam Bailey To me Denzel once again proved that he has the stuff that makes a movie worth watching. 5 stars
11/10/04 Jin melodramatic, manipulative, and overlong bloodbath. 2 stars
11/03/04 John the girl is great - good performances/ script but really overdone in terms of MTVstyle 3 stars
10/26/04 Puspa Allamanda .............. 5 stars
10/16/04 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne Guess this had a big enough blast from the ass to keep EricDSnider from even reviewing it! 4 stars
10/16/04 Regina George didn't really survive the school bus accident Based on true story? Confusing end details on screen, but usual disclaimer. 4 stars
10/13/04 Gracie This movie is one of the best movies I have seen all year...Amazing 5 stars
10/11/04 michaelb14 "What I do best, gonna kill 'em. Anyone who was involved, anyone who profited from it" 5 stars
10/09/04 ELI Too artsy fartsy. and I didn't like any of the characters 2 stars
10/09/04 LilyM Whenever I was drawn into the story, the camera tricks drew me right back out. 2 stars
9/28/04 ben Psycho Racist Flick 1 stars
9/27/04 ALBERT awesome 5 stars
9/22/04 Shams Huque Denzel & Dakota were both superb! 5 stars
9/22/04 Kathy I thought it was great and very emotional, Denzel was fantastic! 5 stars
9/17/04 Kyle Wellcome I really thought Denzel played his role well. It's a good film, and its worth a watch. 4 stars
9/16/04 ALDO good flick with decent twists....Revenge at its finest 4 stars
9/14/04 Dan Was great to see him get back those bastards for what they did to pita 5 stars
9/01/04 Tommy A must-watch 5 stars
8/08/04 Melissa Great movie...Denzel is awesome! Had my heart pumping the entire time. 5 stars
8/07/04 esquire damn fine flick. really enjoyed it. 5 stars
8/06/04 McGraw Flawed but fun. Editing is over-the-top but nothing awful. 4 stars
8/04/04 Nikolai Denzel president? Decorrupts Mexico while Bush Nukem can't nail one camel herder in 3 years 4 stars
8/03/04 qasim top flick! denzel at his best! 5 stars
7/29/04 TXN Good movie but the mtv-style editing can be FRIGGIN IRRITATING 4 stars
7/04/04 MorallySound Awesome thiller, great acting, amazing cinematography. Real good movie, 5 stars
7/02/04 denzel's mom my baby done good! worth the 8 dollars! 5 stars
6/08/04 jamal this movie was off the chain h tight as hell. Denzel was still great and a tight ass g 5 stars
6/08/04 James Kustes Not very good. Even though it was Denzel. 2 stars
6/01/04 bryna morris I thought the movie was great 5 stars
5/29/04 Parker fan-bloody-tastic, ignoring the music-video montages. 4 stars
5/23/04 S F what a load of crap 2 stars
5/23/04 vagile Denzel at his best. Great fun in a dark comic book kind of way. 4 stars
5/20/04 cpbjr DW was good. 3 stars
5/17/04 PAMELA VERY VERY GOOD EXCITING NERVE WRACKING 4 stars
5/12/04 Josh pretty good, needs less of 1st hour 4 stars
5/09/04 Michael Bailey A bit long, but some great acting...especially Denzel and the little girl! 4 stars
5/06/04 D Page Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning give great depth to thier characters. 5 stars
5/05/04 DIRTYMOVIEMAN When are the awards given out. Denzel should be up again. Great Movie !!! 5 stars
5/05/04 Christian Jones Denzel was...Denzel, and Dakota Fanning was...aboluely amazing! 5 stars
5/04/04 minnie B. Clark excellent movie 5 stars
5/03/04 edward jones fucking awesome 5 stars
5/03/04 Nellie Wife comes to grips with home finances but what a price 4 stars
5/03/04 Ajax Half star for Denzel, other half for Dakota, all else just sucks. 1 stars
5/03/04 Atanu Fanning looks like a 40 year old bitch playing at being a child. she's a monstrosity. 1 stars
5/02/04 Terry McGowen very well done,but does stretch believability at times 3 stars
5/01/04 Gobsmack Flawed, not nearly as good as it could have been, but worthwhile overall. 4 stars
5/01/04 g. kane a little lengthy but still very good 5 stars
4/30/04 thomas jeffrson best movie i ever seen 5 stars
4/29/04 Cheryl Miller It held my interest & released my anger 4 stars
4/28/04 Ms J Exciting movie after the first 30 minutes 5 stars
4/27/04 KingNeutron Subtitles were effective. Only problem: Where did the $$$ come from, to get stolen? 4 stars
4/27/04 Daniel Bennison this movie was poo even worse than looking at Nathan White nude 1 stars
4/27/04 malcolm "Creasy's art is death, and he's about to paint his masterpiece." 5 stars
4/26/04 oldtexan good flick 4 stars
4/26/04 Chris Thomson I agree that this film is two movies in one, but the two just double your fun! 4 stars
4/26/04 a movie watcher great movie good story 5 stars
4/26/04 Diane Langlois Great movie! Denzel is fabulous as always! 5 stars
4/26/04 Lord Jiggy "Forgiveness is between them and God. I just arrange the meeting." Just misses greatness. 5 stars
4/26/04 Markus andrews it was a powerfully uplifting rollercoaster 4 stars
4/26/04 Cakes Denzel was awsome. And little Dakota is an incredible little giant 4 stars
4/26/04 Michael sucked. sucked. sucked 1 stars
4/26/04 gyrene Outstanding performance by Denzel.Clever camera work.Subtitles work well.Way too short. 5 stars
4/25/04 Mary Johnson Loved it. Violent yes but still a great movie 5 stars
4/25/04 julietsierra great movie! Great performances. The cinemetography adds to the "on edge" mood. Fantastic!! 5 stars
4/25/04 Alex Higa Action, drama and unique executions.....GREAT MOVIE 5 stars
4/25/04 Alan Johnson Great Moive, two thumbs up 5 stars
4/25/04 Bev Good but way too long 4 stars
4/25/04 Annie Oakley fabulous movie, very moving, made me cry 5 stars
4/25/04 shery great movieb 5 stars
4/25/04 Meghan Awesome 5 stars
4/25/04 Atanu Dakota fanning with all her creepiness is a wrong choice as ever. read the damn book. 1 stars
4/25/04 Maria M GREAT MOVIE!!! Highly recommend it--Dakota is a jewelry--Denzel is a great artist 5 stars
4/24/04 Melissa Great movie! ne of the better one's I have seen this year 4 stars
4/24/04 Deanna Not enough Walken (but then is there ever enough?) It is a terrific movie. 5 stars
4/24/04 Terry H Intredpid, gritty Denzel, with his classic "O.K." 4 stars
4/24/04 Fred Wow! Great movie! Dakota Fanning is impressively convincing! 5 stars
4/24/04 Christina holy crap! That Dakota Fanning is amazing. Denzel is DA MAN. 5 stars
4/24/04 john yummy Tony Scott, Denzel tougher than 'Training Day'...nice Mexico scenes, action, acting 5 stars
4/23/04 Mike V Tony Scott is a Tool. 2 words: Stylized Subtitiles. Waste of Denzel. 2 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  21-Apr-2004 (R)
  DVD: 24-May-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  05-Aug-2004




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