Man On Fire

Movie Review by Neils Hesse

Starring: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Marc Anthony, Radha Mitchell
Director: Tony Scott

” His art is killing and he’s about to paint his masterpiece.”

John Creasy (Denzel Washington) has no emotions other than pain, regret and disgust at himself, and the world. He is an ex-marine turned mercenary with a history of killing. Generally any kind of work that requires a professional gunman and might involve some blood shed would suit him just fine. Rayburn (Christopher Walken) gets Creasy a job as a bodyguard in kidnap ridden Mexico looking after a nine year old girl called Pita (Dakota Fanning). Creasy makes it crystal clear to the child and her parents that he is there to protect her not befriend her. After constant questioning and her acceptance of Creasy as a person, Pita finally breaks down the wall that he had built around his feelings and they form a father daughter relationship. Just as Creasy is slowly beginning to appreciate life again Pita is kidnapped after a bloody shootout that leaves Creasy badly injured and almost dead.

A botched attempt to pay off the ransom money to the kidnappers convinces Creasy of Pita’s death and he promptly swears to kill everyone who was involved in the kidnapping. Then a local policeman (Giancarlo Gianni) and a local reporter (Rachel Ticotin) are convinced that a group of untouchable corrupt policemen are behind the rampant kidnappings in the city including Pita’s. They decide to assist Creasy in his mission of vengeance by pointing him in the right direction, and not get in his way by simply looking the other way when he does what he does best – kill. Creasy’s idea of information gathering includes torture that involves amongst other things cutting off the informant’s fingers to ensure that the information is real. His burning path of fury leads him to a shocking and disheartening conclusion.

Denzel brings the grief and cold hardened persona of Creasy to life, from his empty almost soulless gaze to his rebirth as a caring parent like figure then finally to a man on fire bent on revenge. He gives it his all, but in a very down played approach that suits the role perfectly. Dakota Fanning is very, very good as the young girl who accepts this man everyone else has seemingly given up on and loves him unconditionally.

Tony Scott delivers a powerful film with a good build up of the core relationship between Creasy and Pita, with some very flashy camerawork. The screenplay could have benefited from better character development for the two central characters, but none-the-less it still works as a good old fashioned revenge movie.

The haunting soundtrack adds weight to the emotional punch of the movie.

Denzel Washington delivers a powerful performance that is not to be missed.

4 out of 6 stars