MAN ON FIRE
ALL-ACCESS COLLECTOR’S EDITION
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 Surround[*] English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround[*] Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround[*] French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
Subtitles: English & Spanish
Closed Captioned: Yes
SLP: US $29.98
SLP: CDN $37.98
Release Date: May 24, 2005.
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
After a successful DVD release in 2004, FOX has re-released Man on Fire as an All-Access Collector’s Edition. This edition includes the same excellent DVD presentation of the film on disc one while loading up disc two with never before seen extras. Some of you who picked up the previous DVD may wonder if it’s worth picking up; that all depends on how much you like extras. For those of you who haven’t checked out this title yet – it’s definitely worth the watch. I enjoyed this film a lot last year and equally enjoyed it a second time around.
I reviewed this title in 2004 and the story hasn’t changed. Director Tony Scott, the producers and the writers went into a lot of research into updating this old story for a new film. This film is based on a book with kidnappings in Italy when it was the kidnap capital of the world. Instead of doing a retro-flashback story (as well as a direct remake of another film based on the same story), this story was upgraded to reflect the events in Latin America today, 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 – more money than what the criminals know what to do with. 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. During his research, Tony Scott interviewed many Mexican kidnappers to know how they operate and he 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 doesn’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. It’ll leave you on edge too as Man on Fire explodes on screen as a story of love, rage, and retribution.
VIDEO QUALITY /
This is the same DVD transfer as the 2004 release. This is a widescreen enhanced 2.40:1 film and is 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. Through an HDMI connection, there are no noticeable compression artefacts and no edge enhancement. Just a little bit of edge haloing is coming from somewhere, although I don’t think it’s from my equipment because it isn’t always present with other discs and DVD menus.
The movie is filmed in a dizzying array of clips. It’s 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.
There are subtitles that are intentionally burned in on the film. They act as an English translation of spoken Spanish as well to emphasise 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 /
This is also the same soundtrack that appeared on the 2004 release with both DTS and Dolby Digital soundtrack options. This is a very aggressive soundtrack and the first thing that is noticeable is the amount of deep bass. There is so much tight and punchy bass coming from the main channels it’ll twist your gut. The bass is never over the top, but it’s awesome when it’s used to complement to visuals. Man on Fire has a very front-heavy soundstage and is very intense. It’s recorded so that sounds in the main channels extend well beyond their boundaries without the use of 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 creates the mood of 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. Trent Reznor was the music consultant for this film, so it’s no surprise that songs from his creation Nine Inch Nails were used throughout this 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.
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. I now use a Denon DVD-3910 as my DVD player and I found the differences between the two soundtracks a little more noticeable than before. Just as I remembered hearing on the 2004 version, the DTS soundtrack seemed to have much more controlled bass but this time at about the same amplitude as the Dolby Digital soundtrack. Words accentuating sounds such as “sss” or “tss” has those sounds slightly more emphasized on the DTS soundtrack. But it’s the midrange that really stands out with the DTS track because it sounds “filled in” rather than slightly hollow as it does on the Dolby Digital version. This emphasises how much of a difference DVD players act as audio transports.
Both soundtracks are excellent. Since both are lossy formats anyway, you can’t go wrong with either of them. I listened to the DTS version since I tend to find it more pleasing to listen to.
SPECIAL FEATURES /
Disc one has the same special features as the previous release. There is nothing new here. 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. What a grown-up little girl; 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.
Disc two is where all of the new features are. The first new features is the 1hr.12min documentary titled Vengeance is Mine: Reinventing “Man on Fire”. It is split into five chapters that can be accessed individually through the menu or by a “play all” function. With interviews with the director, producer, writer and cast, they talk about how the film transformed from its beginnings over 20 years ago to what it is today. If you love this film you’ll love this documentary. I found it particularly insightful regarding the current Mexican kidnappers and the business of kidnapping. It’s worth checking out. It’s a 1.78:1 feature that is enhanced for widescreen televisions. It is sourced from a variety of cameras. With very little overscan on my display, the image using NTSC video cameras are blown up to fit the screen don’t always reach the sides.
Next is a variety of features under Pita’s Abduction. There is a script excerpt, Tony Scott’s storyboards and a cool multi-angle breakdown of the kidnapping scene. It can be viewed as individual cameras 1-4 or a fifth angle can be chosen to watch all four angles at the same time. You can view this with or without commentary from Tony Scott. The total feature time is just over four minutes.
This disc also includes 30 minutes of deleted scenes. Most of them are character building moments; there are a lot of them in the film already, but these strengthen the characters even more. They could fit right into the film very easily. There is also an alternate ending. There are 15 scenes in total and while they are in 2.40:1 widescreen, they aren’t enhanced for widescreen displays. The soundtrack is Dolby Digital 2.0 surround.
Lastly there is a photo gallery, three theatrical trailers and 4 TV spots. The theatrical trailers are not widescreen enhanced either.
IN THE END…
While the previous DVD was awesome to have in the collection, this one is even better if you don’t have the 2004 release. The story is entertaining as much as the technical quality of film. Neither sound nor video has been compromised to accommodate the options on the film disc and the special features, while not as plentiful as other elaborate special edition discs, are of good quality. I really wish FOX would stop with the non-anamorphic theatrical trailers, I expect them to be widescreen enhanced as well. I’d like to see an optional cut of this film with the deleted scenes inserted, although I prefer the theatrical ending. But I like the movie the way it is and I’d only watch a longer cut for interest’s sake. If you missed this title the first time, you now have the ability to pick it up the second time around. Try it out – I recommend it.
May 29, 2005.