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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 Erik Childress

"He's At War. God Help Them All"
4 stars

Thinking over the “ancient Klingon proverb” that describes revenge as a dish best served cold, perhaps it’s not just referring to the manner in which it’s delivered. To counterbalance the more conservative who believe the best revenge is living well, the avenger is usually held accountable or made to feel guilty for stooping to the level of their evil targets. Forgive me for being a little more biblical when it comes to my own ideas of an-eye-for-an-eye, but I want to see my avenging angels bringing down all the wrath from Heaven to inflict justice on those who deserve a fate worse than death. Man On Fire was made for people like me.

Adapted from the same A.J. Quinnell novel that inspired the obscure 1987 Scott Glenn thriller of the same name, this update puts Denzel Washington into the titular description with another great performance. At first his Creasy is cooled off, despondent about what he’s done for the U.S. Special Forces. He asks his best friend and former partner, Rayburn (Christopher Walken, sympathetically restrained but still great) if God will forgive them for the things they’ve done. He says “no” without blinking an eye.

Rayburn does bring Creasy a new job though. Little pay, but a cakewalk by their standards, he’s offered the chance to be the new bodyguard for the daughter of a businessman in Mexico City where the average kidnapping rate is four-a-day. (The film’s closing coda is classic.) His alcoholic pattern may have slowed down his reaction time, but despite that the parents take a shine to him and so does young Pita (Dakota Fanning, playing more than just another cutesy automoton). Her precocious, friendly self wants nothing more than to befriend her new shadow, but Creasy keeps a distance just wanting to perform what he was hired to do.



The priority for most films would be to speed-up this relationship and just get to the action. At 142 minutes, director Tony Scott (True Romance, Crimson Tide) takes his time giving due time to how the friendship develops between Pita and Creasy as well as to the battling of his own personal demons. So when she’s eventually taken (nearly an hour into the film) and efforts to retrieve her fail, we can appreciate the extreme measures that an “artist of death” like Creasy takes to “paint his masterpiece.”



Unlike the recent comic book adaptation, The Punisher (whose character’s modus operandi should be clear), Creasy doesn’t waste time and when he puts on his avenging wings WATCH OUT because he is going to PUNISH. His methods seem almost right out of a comic book and admittedly no one has accomplished more with a bullet in their chest since Kevin Kline in I Love You To Death. This may counterbalance for some the realistic edge of the first half, but will provide many with the restitution we secretly desire evildoers to succumb to. The introduction to one brilliant sequence where an on-screen timer reminds us how long one villain has until he’s gone from this world is liable to produce equal doses of laughter, horror and applause.

After all four hours of Kill Bill and the Tarantino worshippers applauding him for fleshing out his characters in Vol. 2, there’s still something to be said for straight narrative filmmaking. It wouldn’t have been out of left field for Man On Fire to open in Creasy’s hospital room, starting out his path to justice and then interrupted with constant flashbacks to reveal his days with Pita. That would have been a disservice to the material, splitting it up so that our emotions would have fractured instead of building to a crescendo of violence that we can accept without blinking that eye. If you always need to shuffle your storyline around like a puzzle to make your point, it will still never fit together as well if you do it piece-by-piece.

Tony Scott employs some creative use of subtitles (even when we understand what’s being said) to hint at clues and to hammer our sense memory with details. He does cross into Oliver Stone land too often with the shaky edits and out-of-focus camera jerks in-between scenes, but it does work for about 2/3 of the film. The ending of the film is kind of a cheat, since it brings to mind a wealth of questions we never would have thought twice about. Is it really worth the kidnapper’s trouble at the risk of the trail leading to him? Is he struck by a little piece of humanity after having a distressed phone conversation? But we still leave the theater more than satisfied.

Man On Fire arrives at a time in our history where Americans are probably clamoring for a little payback. Gone is the period (hopefully) when the justice-seekers in the movies brood not before, but after blowing up people. Gone are the stays of execution that make us think twice before putting someone to death. Forget about the murky grey areas. If we know they’re guilty, they are going down. We may be uncomfortable and we may criticize but at the end of the day we want and need guys like 24’s Jack Bauer and The Punisher’s Frank Castle (the comic book, not the movie version) on that wall of justice. If anyone close to me ever became a victim, I want someone like Creasy ready to go medieval on them with a bazooka.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=9269&reviewer=198
originally posted: 04/23/04 14:50:30
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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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