Overlooked Film of the Week- #36
Man on Fire
The action genre is both overrated and underrated at times. Its a tricky genre to nail, especially sense everything under the sun pertaining to it has been used. There are have many recycled plot threads and story lines throughout the life of the genre, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. When people go to the movies, overall I think they just want to be entertained. I don't see how you can argue against that.
"Man on Fire" is a movie that has familiar story threads. We have kidnappers, we have a burned-out hero, we have sweet girl from a rich family, we see the girl and hero's relationship change for the better, and we see a rough kidnapping. Everything is familiar, everything is routine. However, "Man on Fire" tells its story overly-well. With a cast that includes Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Christopher Walken, Rita Mitchell, Mickey Rourke and Marc Anthony, its tough to go wrong. With that said, there is so much care and confidence building the character and the overall story that the film feels original. There is a style that wickedly perfect throughout the film and everything else is kicked up a notch.
Denzel Washington plays John Creasy a former CIA assassin who is suffering from alcoholism and depression from his years of service. Through his old partner Rayburn (Walken), he is hired by Samuel Ramos (Anthony) to guard his daughter Pita (Fanning) in Mexico City, Mexico. The country is being haunted by several, accelerated kidnappings in the country. At first, Creasy doesn't want to get close with Pita, he feels he can't have a personal relationship with everyone. But Pita is persistent to get to her bodyguard, and eventually Creasy gives in. They go from general friends to extended family fairly quickly, Creasy begins to view Pita as his reason for living again.
Then she gets kidnapped and everything changes, Pita's family tries to get her back and pay the ransom money. But it goes wrong and Pita looses her life. This puts Creasy in a rage, and the rest of the film is Creasy making the kidnappers pay. This is when the movie earns its R-rating, Creasy's methods of vigilantism are enough to make anybody cringe. But I was no doubt drawn to the films action scenes. Like I said before, director Tony Scott doesn't do anything by half-measures. The relationship built between Creasy and Pita is well-nurtured. The action sequences are just as important to Scott and they are handled appropriately. The genius of "Man on Fire" is that Scott made every bit of the movie's story matter. That is so refreshing to see in the action genre.
Denzel Washington lays himself bare in this movie, and the result is one of the highlights of his career. He is absolutely amazing as Creasy, as is Dakota Fanning as Pita. The relationship between Pita and Creasy is the linchpin of the entire movie, and the actors make us believe in their relationship. The film's real heart comes from Christopher Walken's Rayburn, his dialogue punches me in the heart every time I watch it. The other supporting work done by Rita Mitchell, Mark Anthony and Mickey Rourke is all excessively good.
I never thought I'd say an action film offered so much before. But that's exactly how I'd describe "Man on Fire," a movie that offers everything. It has great performances, big action, and a tender story at its core. I never expected a movie like this to be made by Tony Scott, but I am glad that he did. We are richer for it.