Preview by: Jack Foley
ITS fair to say that Man On Fire has been something of
a labour of love for director, Tony Scott, for some years.
Based upon the novel, Man on Fire, by A.J. Quinnell, which was
previously adapted as a 1987 film, starring Scott Glenn, the film
was originally to have been directed by Scott in the 1980s, as
his second film after the David Bowie vampire movie, The Hunger.
But owing to his emerging status, Scott was overlooked and went
on to direct Top Gun, instead. The Glenn movie failed to register
at the Box Office.
Hence, film fans will probably not be able to draw too many comparisons
with the original, particularly given the talent Scott has assembled
for the project - most notably in the form of his leading man,
The Oscar-winning actor stars as a bitter and remorseful former
US Marine, who moves to Mexico City to take a position as the
bodyguard for a wealthy family, which has been receiving kidnapping
He immediately strikes up a friendship with the familys
10-year-old daughter, Pinta (Dakota Fanning), but when she is
kidnapped, the former military specialist, devotes himself fully
to wreaking revenge on those responsible.
Washington grabbed the role after Robert De Niro dropped out
and the collaboration marks the second time he has worked with
Scott, following their memorable collaboration in Crimson Tide.
Fanning, who was nine at the time of filming, has previously
appeared in The Cat In The Hat
and, most memorably, as Sean Penns daughter in I Am Sam,
while the film co-stars Pitch
Blacks Radha Mitchell, Christopher Walken and Mickey
The resulting film has left US critics divided, however, among
those who find its violence unnecessary, and those which have
hailed it as the best revenge flick of the year, in comparison
to the likes of The Punisher
and Walking Tall.
On the plus side was Variety, which referred to it as
one of the more absorbing and palatable entries in the rather
disreputable Death Wish-style self-appointed vigilante sub-genre.
While, conversely, Entertainment Weekly found it a
coldly violent revenge drama that tarts up scenes of wanton sadism
with lush art direction, and a spiritual story that invokes serious
struggle and prayer for atmosphere rather than content.
Similarly lacklustre, was the Los Angeles Times, which
wrote that despite its high craft level and Washington's
participation in it, this movie's showy violence is finally as
deadening as the over-emphatic violence in these kinds of films
And the New York Times felt that Scott's fondness
for intrusive, fake-stylish camera tricks - jump cuts, speeded-up
montages, abrupt changes in light, colour saturation and focal
depth - has overwhelmed whatever story sense he once possessed.
But the Hollywood Reporter felt that the film is
always watchable, and the confrontations contain undeniable edgy
excitement. But even if this weren't a remake, it would be a remake.
While the New York Daily News hauled it as the first
(nonreligious) sure thing to hit the multiplex this year.
Film Blather, meanwhile, opined that it has moments
of brilliance - and by that I mean actual, best-of-the-decade-maybe
genius - but is hampered somewhat by a dreary and repetitive middle
section, but Slant Magazine noted that its
callous fixation on violence is merely a lame pose meant to distract
us from its soggy redemptive core.