Thursday, February 15, 2007
Man on Fire
After sitting awestruck and patiently watching two great Ozu films, I completely changed gears while hunkered down in the midst of our one blizzard for the season and watched Tony Scott's Man on Fire. While watching it, not only was I pleasantly suprised that it was not terrible, but I actually found myself moved and on the edge of my seat nearly the whole time.
Denzel Washington plays Creasy. He's an ex-everything; military, bodyguard, undercover operative, and his friend Rayburn (Christopher Walken) persuades him to take a job as the bodyguard of a child in Mexico City. Creasy is a heavy drinker who has more or less calloused himself to everything. But, through this new found relationship with the child he will learn to open up again and live and love. It's formulaic as can be, but it's apparently based on a true story. And the movie would surely fall apart as straight to video schlock or a made for Spike TV movie if not so well moved along by Tony Scott, and if not for teh unlikely chemistry between Dakota Fanning and Denzel Washington.
The film uses slow motion, subtitles on screen (sometimes even when spoken the dialogue is spoken in English), and many quick cuts to give it a unique look and pace. During the time when Creasy and Pita (Dakota Fanning) are on screen together, there are none of these effects. The camera lingers long enough to see Fanning's reaction, and Washingtons as Creasy's wall's begin to be taken down.
Outside of some flashbacks Creasy has while drinking, it's only after Pita is kidnapped under Creasy's watch that Scott turns up the style and the second half of the film seems almost completely different from the first. It's now become a revenge and action picture, but one where there is a vested interest in the characters.
There are scenes in this second half that I almost felt guilty for liking. In his mission Creasy has no issues with torture. This is not normally my kind of film but I found myself so drawn in by Creasy's character in the first half I found myself rooting and watching through scenes I would normally turn off. Yes, it's your formulaic action movie, but it looks fantastic and Washington's performance elevate it enough to be more enjoyable that just that.