MAN ON FIRE
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Film Year: 2004
U.S. Rating: R
Canadian Rating: 14A
Rated For: Language and Strong Violence
Film Length: 146 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 widescreen enhanced
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: /
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.
VIDEO QUALITY /
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 /
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 /
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.
IN THE END…
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.