Saturday, 15 May 2004

I saw “Man on Fire” today with friends. Not too bad. Not great, but all-in-all it was a fun and edgy film worth seeing.

Denzel Washington does what he seems to do best: He plays a completely controlled man whose life is otherwise out of control. He's holding his life together by sheer willpower, as they say. All that's dramatically offset (or complemented, depending on how you look at it) by the fact that he's clearly an alcoholic with a difficult past (more of what he can't seem to control), and a real desire to stop living his life. It's not necessarily that he wants to die, but you do get the impression he's not really interested in living his life anymore.

So, in true modern-American studio-produced film fashion, a strong-willed child enters his life (can you say Sixth Sense?) and changes the man - for the better, of course.

Washington plays a former assassin, we assume for the CIA or similar, who goes to Mexico to visit a friend and former killer/co-worker. He takes a job as a bodyguard for a little girl whose parents make her a target for kidnapping by a band of organized criminals and corrupt police officials.

Knowing that, you can probably guess the key plot lines in this film, and you'd be right. But after all, how many times can movie makers create films like this one and come up with something new? This film is done over and over again, in one script or another, so there's nothing really earth-shattering here.

Still, it is a fun film, and the camera work and post-production editing is pretty effective, so it stands out for those reasons. There's a lot of character development going on, at least in the beginning, and that's kind of unusual for this type of film. But ultimately it becomes a violent killing spree movie, with blood and vengeance typical of the angry-tired-burned-out-guy-pushed-over-the-edge film genre. So, depending on who you are you'll either love or hate the second half of the film. Luckily, much of the violence takes place just off camera, but you still see the spattered blood and hear the screams.

I especially enjoyed the confrontations between Washington's characters and the bad guys. The scene where Washington's character extracts information from the first in a series of criminal thugs was great, as was the  same scene played out a few characters later under the overpass (pretty crappy way to die).

The occasional fade-in subtitles when people were speaking Spanish were great, until they started applying subtitles to spoken English (with subtitles also in English, duh). When the subtitles went from practical and useful translation to artsy-fartsy subtitles-for-emphasis, it got a little weird for me.

Denzel Washington can carry pretty much any character (man, has he made a lot of movies recently), and he certainly has to in this film, which lasts somewhere around two and a half hours. It didn't seem that long though. The young actress who played the little girl in the film (Dakota Fanning) also carried a lot of the weight, even when on the screen with Washington, which is really saying something.

For people who enjoy a good action film with a decent story and can handle the mad-revenge kind of violence, this one is worth seeing. If you don't have the stomach for a killing spree, ya better stay home.



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Saturday, 15 May 2004 22:57:06 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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