*** Official MAN ON FIRE Review Thread

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Chuck Mayer, Apr 23, 2004.

  1. Chuck Mayer

    Chuck Mayer Lead Actor

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    My new routine of seeing what I want on an extended lunch break continues. It's worth the two extra hours I spend at work earlier in the week [​IMG]

    Man on Fire isn't blazingly original. It's a bit different than the two more high profile revenge movies. One, it has a bona fide star, two, Tony Scott is an exceptional director with the right material, and three, Helgeland wrote the script. It has none of the (alleged) cheese of The Punisher, and none of the comedy or rampant enthusiasm of KBv2. It does have an edge. Denzel Washington - the man exudes intelligence and charisma, and it informs his every role. I enjoy watching him act. It's a treat. It's a somewhat subdued role here. Subdued and brutal. The film earns it's R. The violence is not meant to be sadistic, or cathartic, though some might interpret it that way. It's meant to simply represent the man dealing it out. There is a scene in the trailer that I wish was cut, even if it did feature Walken, who is in a few brief scenes. It's the "masterpiece" line, and also gives the reason for why Creasy is doing it. That scene belongs in a somewhat different film. It's too obvious and overdone.

    Aside from that, it's bleak and harsh. The direction is a bit dramatic, as befits a Tony Scott film, but it wasn't distracting. I was into the story so it worked for me. Mexico City looked beautiful and dangerous, and it received a special thanks as soon as the credits rolled. It earned it. As expected from a Scott Free film, the technical aspects of the film were outstanidng.

    On a side note, there was some Lisa Gerrard on the score (and some NIN [​IMG] ), and I don't believe it was recycled Gladiator stuff, though it could have been. I thought it was a little different.

    The story itself (the whos, whats, etc) seems predictable, and is; it isn't meant to be a mystery...more of a dissection of the event and the players. And the motives. I don't want to say anymore.

    I really enjoyed the film. As I stated in the Batman thread...my favorite (and the defining) Batman quote: "The world only makes sense when you force it to." Creasy forces it to.

    8/10,
    Chuck
     
  2. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Studio Mogul

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    My eyeballs hurt after trying to watch this film. It's one thing to try to go "gritty" when the scene deserves it, but the quick cuts and over-saturation, and flashes of brightness was simply overused, and I just zoned out of the film, so I can't quite recommend the film. Plus it's ponderous and long when it didn't necessarily have to be so.

    I give it 2 stars or a grade of C (if you can withstand the super-distracting footage inserted all over this film).
     
  3. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Producer

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    Man on Fire, perhaps one of the best examples of how a movie can be remade in a way that excels over the original.

    This movie is simply a near perfect matching of director, script, actors, and location that was a pleasure to watch from start to finish. I found myself not only caring for all of the characters that I was carefully introduced to, but I found myself in retrospect justifying a level of vigilante justice that I would normally consider over the line. In that respect, the movie is an absolute victory. And the film has a mesmerizing flow to it that I couldn't help but settle into.

    It should be said that this film is brutal, both in the revenge aspect but also because you are given a great level of identity to Pita, so even the description of how she is treated hits you very hard. As opposed to a film like Ransom, which didn't have to allocate a great deal of time to develop the abducted child because a father would naturally go to any lengths to save him, Man on Fire has the task of not only introducing you to two characters who have never met before, but has to convince you that they can grow an attachment that would force him to bang the gates of hell to avenge her. The original film did this capably, but the remake simply accomplishes it masterfully. In lesser hands, we'd be presented with the equivalent of a 'meet cute' and the bodyguard would bond with the girl in the first 10 minutes of meeting her. Here, we're allowed to see their relationship build, be tested, and eventually blossom. Watching Denzel slowly open was very well rendered, both in the slow way he warmed up to her as well as how he started to express the best parts of himself through teaching her to swim or to avoid being pidgeonholed into piano lessons.

    I don't think I can say enough positive about the actors involved with the film. Dakota Fanning brings in a flawless performance that I'd only compare to Natalie Portman in Leon and Jena Malone in Bastard out of Carolina. She converses effortlessly with Creasy and her reaction to the abduction event was wholely convincing. In what could easily have sunk the film, she is an absolute gem. Denzel, as he has proven time and again, is an actor to whom I can see no boundaries. I love how he played this role, both in his honesty with himself and with others on the state of his life as well as the selfless determination that Pita's abduction drives him to. Christopher Walken is fine as Creasy's friend and hits it out of the park with one of my favorite film conventions, the Walken monologue. Even in what could have been a throwaway part, Rhada Mitchell turns the role of Pita's mother into an excellent supporting part and displays a fine combination of both rage and sorrow at a critical point.

    I don't doubt some will have problems with Tony Scott's direction, as it is presented in much the same way as Spy Game was. The use of mixed media, alternate film speeds, overlays, and even creative use of subtitles were all in aid and service of the story told, so I found him to be an excellent match for the material. In tackling the action, he provides it without embellishment or common cliches. The combat in this film is brief and violent. And it should be said that he pulls no punches in showing the efficient and merciless actions Creasy takes to make them pay. But he also handled the subtler elements with a strength I wouldn't have normally expected. He manages to carry a dying man symbolism throughout the film in an impressive way, with Creasy returning to the pool he trained Pita in as a fountain of youth to keep him going until his task was finished. The film is not without humor, but even the most darkly comic episode involving some unfortunate last music to hear as you're about to die, doesn't damage the momentum and impact of what is happening.

    I can't, after first viewing, find much of anything negative about the film. Even being familiar with the original film I found so much of it fresh and surprising, even when they were recreating a scene. And it even manages to avoid some of the major conceits that I think harmed the first film. [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] (out of four).
     
  4. Claire Panke

    Claire Panke Second Unit

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    This film was repellent.
     
  5. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    This thread is now the Official Review Thread for "Man on Fire". Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.

    Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!

    If you need to discuss those type of issues then I have designated an Official Discussion Thread.



    Crawdaddy
     
  6. Yousaf

    Yousaf Second Unit

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    I liked the story, I liked the acting, but the cinematography was too gimmicky and overdone.
     
  7. John Doran

    John Doran Screenwriter

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    i can't add anything useful to alex's excellent review - i really, really, really liked this show. a lot.

    thought i can understand how some might find scott's idiosyncratic editing distracting, i myself did not.

    dakota fannning and denzel were both pitch-perfect. as was almost everything else.

    this is so far my favorite film of '04.
     
  8. Tim Glover

    Tim Glover Lead Actor

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    Finally saw this last night. Liked the story, loved the acting. DW remains one of the best actors around.

    However, Tony Scott's style here bothered me and quite often pulled me out of the film. The film would have worked on it's own, even with what sounds like the Gladiator song, without this mtv-dizzying effect.

    I'm recommending it based on the performances, but bring a couple of advil for your headache that follows.
     

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