A/V Room









Man on Fire - Preview & US reaction

Preview by: Jack Foley

IT’S 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, Denzel Washington.

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 threats.

He immediately strikes up a friendship with the family’s 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 Penn’s daughter in I Am Sam, while the film co-stars Pitch Black’s Radha Mitchell, Christopher Walken and Mickey Rourke.

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 generally is’.

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’.

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