Man On Fire (2004)

Former counter-terrorist agent John Creasey (Denzel Washington) finds a job in Mexico City as the bodyguard of a wealthy industrialist’s daughter (Pita, played by Dakota Fanning). Creasey is a heavy drinker, trying to escape the ghosts of his past, but he gradually finds solace and redemption in his friendship with the little girl. This introductory story, which plays out over the first hour, could almost stand as a film on its own. It’s intense and touching, and it paints a warm picture of Creasey and Pita as two lonely souls who have a lot to learn from each other. But then she is kidnapped, and when the ransom drop goes sour, killed.

Creasey was shot and almost killed when Pita was taken. With her gone, his lifeline is cut, and his sole purpose becomes finding out who kidnapped her, and killing them. It’s a brutal rampage, and director Tony Scott runs riot with his characteristic visual flair to turn this bloodbath into a stylistic masterpiece. But just as Scott cranks up the colour, Creasey turns emotionally monotone. The latter half of the film is not about anger and thrills and car chases, it’s about black depression and cold determination.

Denzel Washington puts in a stunning performance, making Creasey’s revenge feel realistically barren, but the amount of cinematographic energy being lavished on it feels out of place. The ending, which I won’t spoil here, is both emotionally jarring and disappointingly anti-climactic. It’s a difficult film to watch, but still a worthwhile one. Just don’t be expecting a summer action blockbuster–it’s much, much darker than that.

1 thought on “Man On Fire (2004)

  1. Rick

    Whoa! This is some kind of cosmic coinkydink! We just watched that movie, without realizing you’d reviewed it. And I was thinking I have another movie under my belt to review.

    The bummer now is that I think you’ve pretty much said it all. What’s left for me to say?

    I guess I could give away the ending. 😉

Comments are closed.