Man on Fire on DVD
Man on Fire is a difficult movie to analyze, and an even harder one to review.
Chances are, you think its nothing more than a typical action thriller
about a kidnapped girl and the bodyguard that wants to get her back. Youd
be forgiven for such thoughts, as thats exactly the impression you get
from the trailers, reviews, and even the box.
So you may be surprised to learn that Man on Fire is actually a deep, thought
provoking, expertly crafted piece of cinema.
John Creasy (Denzel Washington) is a burned-out CIA operative with plenty of
demons inside. Hes found solace in the bottle, and often wonders whether
or not he even wants to continue living. That is, until his friend Rayburn (Christopher
Walken) gets him a job as bodyguard to nine-year-old Pita Ramos (Dakota Fanning).
At first Creasy is completely straight-laced, not even wanting to talk to Pita.
But the friendly charm of the little girl is enough to make even him smile,
and maybe even give the rest of his life a second thought.
Until of course, Pita is kidnapped and held for ransom. Then things start to
go awry. Creasy was shot several times during the kidnapping, and despite that
fact, is suspected as an accomplice due to his killing of two police officers.
After his lengthy recovery, he decides to let a few of his demons out to teach
a few lessons to the people involved.
Dont be fooled. Man on Fire is not an all-out action extravaganza. Absolutely
nothing happens for the first 45 minutes or so. Initially, you may think its
just taking a really long time to get started, but if you pay attention, youll
notice that its actually telling a very beautiful story. Sure, weve
seen this kind of thing before, but everything is done so well its easy
to forgive. Screenwriter Brian Helgeland does an excellent job of making us
care about Creasy and Pita, and the development of their relationship nearly
brings a tear to your eye. We really feel for him when Pita is taken and hes
left for dead, and we dont blame him for wanting vengeance.
The action is crafted well also, but its not all big action set pieces
and endless car chases and explosions. Creasy is much more subtle, opting instead
for the classic mob hit approach.
Director Tony Scott has come a long way from his early days of directing movies
like Top Gun, which were pure style over substance. Man on Fire and Spy Game
are wonderfully told stories that just happen to feature some action. And although
his intense music video style may be a bit disconcerting at first, it actually
works very well.
Denzel gives possibly his worst performance to date, but much like Scotts
style, it works a lot better than youd think. Its probably due more
to the fact that theres not a lot of talking in his role, and it involves
a lot of sitting and staring with a broken down look on his face. Dakota Fanning,
however, is an incredibly talented young lady. There arent a lot of little
girls that can play little girls so well. Shes already starred in many
a film, and well get to see plenty more of her in the upcoming Alices
Adventures in Wonderland adaptations. Lets hope she manages to make a
much-deserved career in acting.
The DVD features anamorphic widescreen presented in 2.40:1. Colors are rich
and detail is sharp, and overall the picture is great, but there are a couple
of short scenes that feature a bit of grain. Audio is pretty impressive (including
both Dolby Digital and dts 5.1 tracks), with great separation of elements, plenty
of surround use (though it doesnt start until the movie really gets going),
and an aggressive subwoofer track.
Extras include two audio commentaries, one by Tony Scott, the other by Dakota
Fanning, Brian Helgeland, and producer Lucas Foster. Neither track is particularly
compelling, but you do learn one or two things about the production. Theres
also a preview of some of Foxs upcoming titles, but its pretty shameless
marketing considering you dont even get a behind-the-scenes featurette
for the movie or anything.
Man on Fire, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
146 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (2.40:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Christopher Walken and Mickey Rourke
Produced by Arnon Milchan, Tony Scott, Lucas Foster
written by Brian Helgeland , Directed by Tony Scott
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