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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Man on Fire

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#1 of 47 OFFLINE   Michael Osadciw

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Posted September 06 2004 - 05:23 AM

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Studio: 20th Century Fox
Film Year: 2004

U.S. Rating: R
Canadian Rating: 14A
Rated For: Language and Strong Violence

Film Length: 146 minutes
Genre: Action/Thriller

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 widescreen enhanced
Colour/B&W: Colour
Audio:[*] English DTS 5.1[*] English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround[*] Spanish Dolby Digital 3.0 Surround[*] French Dolby Digital 3.0 Surround
Subtitles: English & Spanish
Closed Captioned: Yes
SLP: US $29.90

Release Date: September 14, 2004.

Film Rating: Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image / Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

Starring: Denzel Washington (Creasy), Dakota Fanning (Pita), Marc Anthony (Samuel), Radha Mitchell (Lisa), Christopher Walker (Rayburn), Giancarlo Giannini (Manzano), Rachel Ticotin (Mariana), Mickey Rourke (Jordan)

Directed by: Tony Scott
Screenplay by: Brian Helgeland
Novel by: A.J. Quinnell

Forced Trailers: A montage of action film trailers such as The Day After Tomorrow, I Robot, Aliens Vs. Predator.

Welcome to Latin America: where the second biggest illegal business next to drugs is kidnapping. Loosely based on a novel by A.J. Quinnell, Tony Scott’s film Man on Fire exposes kidnapping as the rising crime in Latin America. It is said that it’s a place where several people are kidnapped every hour with a victim survival rate of less than 70 percent. The motives of the kidnappers: business as usual. They demand ransom money from the wealthy citizens whose family member has been abducted. Sadly, because of their inability to fight back, most of the abductees are children.

Kidnapping has become a problem in Mexico City where Man on Fire is based. It’s an organized crime and a quick way for these kidnapping rings to get rich. It’s safer than dealing drugs and yields higher returns. It’s also easier for these groups to accomplish this because of the corruption within the country. Cops, lawyers, and government officials – many are all a part of the scheme, and police forces do what they can to cover their cops from public scrutiny. It’s almost impossible for the victims to look to their law enforcers and plead for help to officials when they are a part of the problem.

Man on Fire exposes the problem of kidnapping around a wealthy Mexican family and an ex-CIA operative and assassin named John Creasy. Creasy’s old friend Rayburn is living in Mexico after he retires from the CIA. He calls on Creasy from the U.S. to give him a job to protect the daughter of a wealthy man named Samuel Ramos who owns a financially strapped auto plant outside of the city. Creasy takes the job; after all, he’s given up on life. He’s depressed, he drinks too much, and he’s alone. It’s a stark contrast to Rayburn’s life that’s taken a different path to happiness. He’s retired, happily married and has children in a free Mexico.

The first fifty minutes of the film establishes the relationship between Creasy and Samuel’s family, mostly the main character, Samuel’s 10-year old daughter Pita whom Creasy is to protect. In contrast to Pita, Creasy isn’t much of a socialite. He doesn’t want to be her friend and just wants to do his job. But soon after Creasy survives a breaking point in his life he begins to warm up to her. Time gives them a newfound relationship and Creasy cares deeply for her. She gives him new reasons to live again and he feels happy once again. Despite their new bond, there is a looming sense of uncertainty surrounding them. Strangers follow with cars and danger is apparent. Suddenly, an assault on the two of them leaves Creasy injured and Pita is taken away by kidnappers.

Creasy and the family are devastated at the events. Having felt the happiest he’s ever been, he’s crushed by the kidnappers’ actions and he turns it into a rage where he unleashes a brutish side of his personality. He sets out hunt down the people who he believes are a part of it. With the help of a local reporter and by those he intimidates, he puts the pieces together to progress further into the ring stopping at nothing to save her.

It’s difficult to get through the kidnapping rings. Tony Scott wanted to show the complexity these rings have in order to protect the person behind it all. Much like Al-Queda in the Middle East, kidnappers operate with several cells. Each don’t know the other faction, yet all a part of the organized plan. This segregation helps reaching the leader of the kidnapping almost impossible since there are so many people to go through and they don’t have a whereabouts of the leader. There are no phone numbers to reach the “master”. One can only page him and he makes the makes the phone calls. It’s a scary scenario that’s left too many people in fear, hence prompting people to hire bodyguards.

According to Scott, this film was supposed to be done twenty-two years ago but was put on hold for many reasons. At the time, its setting was to take place in Italy where it was once known as the kidnapping country of the world. Now kidnapping in Europe is rare and wouldn’t make much sense for this movie today unless it was told in retro-style. Regardless of the original intent, Man on Fire explodes on screen as a story of love, rage, and retribution.

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The aspect ratio of the film is 2.40:1 and is widescreen enhanced. It’s shot with some reversal stock to heighten the reality of the image. This gives it more contrast, brings up colours and grains. The blacks become extremely deep and crushed and the white levels are extra-bright. The image looks more like an abstract painting using pastels. Greens and oranges are very dominant on this stylistically edgy picture. Detail is also exception on close-ups of faces. There is nothing problematic on this picture that I can say is DVD related. Compression artifacts, smudging, or edge enhancement is a non-issue.

The movie is filmed in a dizzying array of clips. Its very fast and flashy with many cuts in a few seconds that lets your eye grasp only momentarily what is going on. This collage works for several scenes but does get tiring after a while. Its overuse for almost two and a half hours makes it less unique, yet it speaks volumes of the character’s feelings and the events taking place. The photography also plays with perspective such as the scene in chapter seven when Creasy’s mental state is going further down the spiral. We want to see in his head and feel what he feels - it’s very effective.

Subtitles are burned in on the film due to the unique placement of them. The subtitles act as English translation from Spanish as well as an emphasis to words spoken in English. Subtitles situate randomly on screen and give the impression of television commercial or music video style filmmaking. Overall, this is a very pleasing picture to look at.

AUDIO QUALITY Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image / Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

The soundtrack of Man on Fire will rock your home theater system! The first thing that is noticeable on this soundtrack is the amount of bass that will kick you in the chest. There is so much tight and punchy bass coming from the main channels it will twist your gut. The bass is never over the top, but it’s awesome when it’s placed in the soundtrack when the visuals are all over the place. It’s a very front-heavy soundstage and very intense. It’s recorded so that the main channels extend well beyond their boundaries without use of the surround channels.

Music is a dominant factor for the visuals on screen, carrying the pace of the actions and feelings of the characters. The piano denotes the peace and tranquility Creasy feels from Pita, since it’s the instrument she plays. Electronic-rock provides the fast paced tunnel-vision action that is run throughout the film. An additional surprise for me is the consistent use of Nine Inch Nails songs throughout the film. I’m a huge NIN fan because the music has such a wide range of emotion and soundscapes. This soundtrack features The Mark Has Been Made as the running theme throughout the film, and other aptly titled songs Self Destruction, Part 1 (and Part 2), The Downward Spiral (The Bottom), and The Great Below are also featured as musical collage with Linda Ronstadt’s cover of Roy Orbison’s Blue Bayou. I was so excited with the use of NIN that I found it distracting during these scenes…oops…I had to watch them over again.

As you can imagine, the rest of the soundtrack is stellar. Surround channels are active throughout but never ever add much attention to them. The subwoofer channels rocks, and for those of you using bass management by setting your main speakers to “small” will have far more bass in your LFE. Be sure that you have a sub capable to handle the very deep pulses of bass that come from the main channels. This was such a fun soundtrack to experience!

The disc also includes both DTS and Dolby Digital soundtrack options. As always, the Dolby Digital version is heavier in the bass with less definition, and the DTS version is a hair quieter in bass but is much more defined. Words accentuating sounds such as “sss” or “tss” has those sounds slightly more emphasized on the DTS soundtrack. Both soundtracks are excellent. Since they are both lossy formats anyways, you can’t go wrong with either of them. I listened to the DTS version since I tend to find it a little more pleasing to listen to.

SPECIAL FEATURES Posted Image Posted Image / Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

Included on this disc are two audio commentaries, one from Director Tony Scott and another from producer Lucas Foster, Screenwriter Brian Helgeland, and actress Dakota Fanning. Both commentaries are neat to listen to. Scott tells a lot of stories that are loosely related to what is happening on screen and how their experiences in Mexico were on the verge or being disastrous. People were thinking of pulling the plug on the project because of the dangerous situations the crew was always in with Mexican society. Essentially, Scott was saying that they felt like they were in the movie when they were making the movie.

The other commentary is equally as interesting. Congratulations to Fanning for participating in a commentary at such an early age. Her language is cute to listen to in contrast to the adults (and she loved the NIN music) and it made it very delightful. They discuss how the shooting project was a crazy life experience, much similar to what Scott was speaking about. They also get into a little more technical detail as well. Overall, both are a good listen.

One more feature is on this disc: it’s called Inside Look and shows two upcoming projects from FOX. One is an intro-by-director and teaser for the film Hide and Seek with Robert DeNeiro and Dakota Fanning, and another is Taxi featuring Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah.


This is one awesome DVD to have in the collection. The story is entertaining as much as the technical quality of film. For a two and a half hour film and a DVD that has both DTS and Dolby Digital soundtracks, two Dolby Surround soundtracks, two commentaries and a special feature, this disc proves that DVD authoring can be excellent with all of the above packed on a single dual-layered disc. Neither the sound nor video has been compromised to accommodate options. This is great news for Man on Fire, a film which sound and picture go hand in hand for effectiveness. I recommend you check this disc out. You won’t be disappointed.

Michael Osadciw

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#2 of 47 OFFLINE   ArthurMy


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Posted September 06 2004 - 05:58 AM

"According to Scott, this film was supposed to be done twenty-two years ago"

This film WAS made seventeen years ago - it was called Man on Fire and starred Scott Glenn. Is this little fact not mentioned anywhere on the DVD? My opinion on this film differs greatly from yours, Michael - I hated every minute of it, especially the usual Tony Scott "look" and editing. I do like Denzel Washington and the little girl, Dakota Fanning, is good, but I prefer the first version which is not saying much as it really stinks, too.

I'm glad you liked it and are happy with its presentation on DVD.

#3 of 47 OFFLINE   Mike Graham

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Posted September 06 2004 - 07:18 AM

One of the better films of the spring, but Scott could've cut 20 minutes and tonned down his over the top jump-cutting and zooming in/out technique.

#4 of 47 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted September 06 2004 - 07:24 AM

Great review and I thought the film was very good.




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#5 of 47 OFFLINE   Michael Osadciw

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Posted September 06 2004 - 08:17 AM


This film was made internationally in 1987 and was mentioned in his commentary. Tony Scott had the rights to making the film for a North American production, but was put on the shelf until now.

As far as the appearance of the film (as well as the content), well, that all comes to one's preference like with any other film: you'll either love it or hate it.


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#6 of 47 OFFLINE   Nick Sievers

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Posted September 06 2004 - 08:44 AM

I really wanted to like this one because Denzel is an immensely talented actor and the characters were fleshed out a lot more than most films in this genre but Tony Scott's style was too much to take after a while. I will be giving it a second chance because I wasn't feeling very well at the screening (the editing probably didn't help either), so hopefully it comes off a little better next time.
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#7 of 47 OFFLINE   ArthurMy


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Posted September 06 2004 - 08:45 AM

Michael - totally right - it's all preference. I don't really care for any of Tony Scott's films. I do occasionally enjoy brother Ridley's work, but not of late.

#8 of 47 OFFLINE   Mike~Sileck


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Posted September 06 2004 - 10:04 AM

I loved this movie and will def. buy this dvd. Thanks for the great review.

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#9 of 47 OFFLINE   CraigL



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Posted September 06 2004 - 11:03 AM

All over it! Thanks for the great review!

#10 of 47 OFFLINE   Joseph J.D

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Posted September 06 2004 - 12:15 PM

Guess it's about time for another blind buy....thanks for the review.Posted Image

Although I must say that my wallet hates you.Posted Image
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Recently watched- Home Alone 2: Lost In New York, Home Alone, An American Christmas Carol, It's A Spongebob Christmas!, Four Christmases, Love & Other Drugs, Assault On Precinct 13(1976), Lovejoy Christmas Specials, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Die Hard, Up 3D, The Grandmaster, Edge Of Tomorrow 3D, The Comedy Of Terrors, The Raven(1963), Mulholland Falls

Currently watching- Planet Earth, True Blood: Season 2, Gatchaman: The Complete Series, The Equalizer: Season 2, Tales From The Crypt: Season 2, WKRP In Cincinnati: Season 1, Arrow: Season 2, Star Trek: Season 1
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#11 of 47 OFFLINE   Chuck Mayer

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Posted September 06 2004 - 12:37 PM

One of my favorites for the year, believe it or not. The directing worked for me, considering the subject, and Fanning and Washington elevated it wqell beyond the basic story. Sometimes a movie clicks for you, and Man on Fire clicked for me. I agree with Michael that the NIN was a welcome addition (and when the heck is bleedingthrough coming out?), and fit the film pretty well.

Can't wait to buy the movie and revisit it.

Thanks for the excellent review,
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#12 of 47 OFFLINE   ClaytonMG


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Posted September 06 2004 - 12:43 PM

I for one absolutely loved this film. Probably my favorite of the year so far (along with Garden State... kind of 2 very different films...) I do feel it could've probably been a little shorter and had less of the fast cuts that everyone is talking about. But I loved almost every part of this movie. Especially the music, everyone is mentioning Nine Inch Nails and I loved the use of their music in the movie. If you guys liked the way it was used in this movie, you should check out Tony Scott's The Fan. Some of the same tracks are used. I'd also like to mention Harry Gregson-Williams' score is fantastic. I am very happy to hear the subtitles are burned in. After I saw the film in theaters I got worried they'd destroy the subtitles by using player generated ones. Anyway, I can't wait to get it!


#13 of 47 OFFLINE   Rhoq


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Posted September 06 2004 - 12:53 PM

Man On Fire quickly became my favorite movie of all time. I saw it 3 times in the theater and twice (so far) on DVD (I bought it this past Friday, a local store broke the street date for me).

I find that at 2 and a half hours long, the ending just doesn't do the movie justice and I actually wish it was slightly longer...and I prefer movies to be shorter than 2 hours. The acting performances (especially from Denzel and Dakota Fanning) are incredible. All of the acting, with the exception of Marc Anthony (who gets better towards the end of his character's scenes) is phenomenal.

While it's true that Tony Scott's techniques take a little getting used to, I honestly believe that it adds to the quality of the production. It gives it a sense of style and prsonality that traditional methods just wouldn't have been able to accomplish. I have also heard that due to the violence, some of the scenes were purposely shot that way to make it past the censors with an "R" rating. Whatever the reason, it works and is very effective.

Joseph - A blind buy will definitely be worth your purchase. You will love this movie.

#14 of 47 OFFLINE   Mike Graham

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Posted September 06 2004 - 01:58 PM

Well, I'll probably end up picking this film up anyway, but it really does make me wonder how our protagonists are changing these days.

From Vick Mackie on The Shield to Jack Bauer on 24, many more morally challenged anti-heroes seem to be taking center stage in our media nowadays. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, because a badass lead character can lead to more interesting drama onscreen, but I have to wonder how much more devious the leads can turn out to be, before we can no longer accept them as a good guy. (Please note I'm a huge fan of both of the above-mentioned TV series.)

#15 of 47 OFFLINE   adrian b

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Posted September 07 2004 - 03:37 PM

great review...looking foward to this as I missed it in theaters.

Chuck...NIN new album is supposed to be out in Jan 05. And it's still not decided if it's "Bleeding Through" or "Bleedingthrough" Posted Image

#16 of 47 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted September 07 2004 - 03:58 PM

Two very good audio commentaries and the DVD only gets a 2 out of 5 for extras? Buh?
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#17 of 47 OFFLINE   Michael Osadciw

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Posted September 07 2004 - 04:28 PM

A star for each, Colin!

Adrian...I think it's the toss-up between Bleed Through and Bleedthrough... oh well, Jan. 05 is too far away! It's been too long already!

Should be interesting to see what Trent comes up with now that he's producing his own album again after the last one with Bob Ezrin. I wonder how he got Bob? Must have been Trent's liking with Roger Waters & Floyd...

Trent cried..."help" ... Posted Image


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#18 of 47 OFFLINE   Alex Spindler

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Posted September 08 2004 - 04:17 AM

An excellent review, and I especially appreciate your detailed discussion on the visuals and subtitles and especially your commentary on the audio portion of the disc. Very detailed and appreciated!

In the running for my favorite film this year, I really loved just about every aspect of Man on Fire. I've seen the previous film with Scott Glenn, and liked several parts of it. But I think this release really does what a remake should do - develop beyond the original into something better.

The relationship developed between Pita and Creasy is so well paced and convincing that it cemented my belief in Creasy's conviction of his actions. The subtle way that the music and the more restrained editing during this section underscores this wonderfully, as Creasy develops a moral center.

When she is taken, the music and editing continue to become far more erratic as does Creasy, who is alive only to accomplish his goal. It is in this way that I think Scott is able to provide justification for his editing style, where it is for once in support of the narrative of the film.

One question: Does this have the theatrical trailers for the film? They were excellent.

#19 of 47 OFFLINE   Joe Kamsan

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Posted September 08 2004 - 07:03 AM

I hated how the subtitles were done in this movie, as well as the text appearing on screen to heighten the impact of what was being spoken. It was a poor choice stylistically because to me it screamed a lack of respect for the viewer (at least this one).

The performance that little girl gave was great; you could empathise with Creasy and understand his determination.

I just found the whole thing to be marred by the long running length, Scott's over the top, hyper-real style. As a film, I can't recommend this as a quality blind buy (the A/V is another matter).

#20 of 47 OFFLINE   ClaytonMG


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Posted September 08 2004 - 09:06 AM

I don't think this has the trailers for the film on it. But! If you want them, Runaway Jury has the teaser with original music in it (16x9 and 5.1 sound) and then there was a disc I got with Master and Commander with a second teaser with a NIN track instead of the original music by Jim Dooley (the track is The Mark Has Been Made). Unfortunately, I do not know if the full trailer is on any of Fox's other DVD's.