Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES (2-DISC VERSION): Disc One: Director’s
commentary. 15 deleted scenes (with optional commentary). Inside
Look 'Hide and Seek'.
Disc Two: 72 min documentary: 'Vengeance is Mine - Reinventing
Man on Fire'. Pita’s Abduction - multi angle sequence. 4
TV spots. Music video 'Oye Como Va' by Kinky. Tony Scott’s
storyboards - Pita’s Abduction. Photo gallery (approx 60
QUENTIN Tarantino has described Man on Fire as 'one of Tony Scott's
best pictures. Hard, gripping and tough as hell." It's easy
to see why.
Scott's latest is a humdinger of a thriller that embodies many
of the traits we have come to enjoy from the Kill
Bill maestro, not to mention the best of the director's own
A labour of love for Scott, who sought to direct it in 1987,
prior to making his name with Top Gun, the film is an engrossing
character study that is as poignant as it is bloody, and which
features yet another blistering turn from Denzel Washington.
The actor plays Creasy, a former military specialist-turned-alcoholic,
who is haunted by a past he cannot forget.
When he travels to Mexico to hook up with his old military buddy,
Rayburn (Christopher Walken), Creasy is given a shot at redemption
and agrees to serve as bodyguard for Mexico City industrialist,
Samuel Ramos (Marc Anthony), his American wife, Lisa (Radha Mitchell),
and their daughter, Pita (Dakota Fanning).
And through Pita, Creasy gradually learns that 'it's ok to live
again', befriending the girl and acting as a father-figure, as
he coaches her to swimming success at her local school and serves
as an advisor and confidante.
His world comes crashing down around him, however, when Pita
is kidnapped and he is injured in the ensuing shoot-out, which
means that he has no control over the ensuing ransom negotiations.
When they go wrong, and Pita is left
for dead, Creasy vows to take revenge - and sets about delivering
his particular dish in the coldest possible fashion.
Enlisting the help of Rayburn, as well as a plucky news reporter
(Rachel Ticotin) and ex-Interpol expert (Giancarlo Giannini),
Creasy sets about killing anyone who was involved with, or profited
from, Pita's kidnapping, even if it involves corrupt, high-ranking
policemen, or professional killers.
The ensuing revenge mission unfolds with all the visual flair
we have come to expect from Scott, as well as a gut-wrenching
toughness that is not so typical of Hollywood.
As Creasy goes about his mission, it's clear he means business,
and from the moment he starts torturing victims to extract more
information, he becomes a single-minded instrument of punishment
whose own life and wellbeing play second fiddle to the task at
Yet, while the violence in the second part of the movie is uncompromising,
it is offset cleverly by the tenderness and affection displayed
in the first half, when Scott takes the time to build and develop
the relationship between Creasy and Pita.
It is a relationship that is touchingly portrayed and which allows
Washington to build on the tragedy of his character in scintillating
fashion, so that when the switch is flicked and Creasy is forced
to revisit his past misdeeds, his actions are understandable,
even when veering towards the deplorable.
At two and a half hours, the film does not flag and contains
several outstanding set pieces, during which Scott gets to showcase
the full extent of his technical brilliance.
Wisely, however, they do not come at the expense of Brian Helgeland's
intense screenplay, which provides a neat juxtaposition to his
work on Mystic River, and
which dealt with similar issues of revenge in much more personal
It may, ultimately, provoke the wrath of the anti-violence brigade,
but Man on Fire is undoubtedly one of the year's best thrillers.
When Walken's character points out that 'Creasy's art is death,
and he's about to paint his masterpiece', you'll be hard-pressed
not to agree with the sentiment, for Scott and Washington have
masterfully created one of their own. The film is downright essential