Man On Fire (2004)
Directed by Tony Scott
Based on Man on Fire by A. J. Quinnell
Starring: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Giannini, Radha Mitchell, Marc Anthony, Rachel Ticotin, Mickey Rourke
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
In Mexico City, a former CIA operative swears vengeance on those who committed an unspeakable act against the family he was hired to protect.
Okay, this certainly wasn’t the best movie I’ve seen in August but I probably enjoyed it the most. In many ways, it’s quite bad. Very cliché & predictable & all that. But Denzel Washington was as awesome as always (love him) and, yeah, I fell for the cheesy friendship that was so obviously going to form between him and Dakota Fanning, the young girl he’s hired to protect as she’s in danger of being kidnapped. The movie did that very well, though, and spent a long time showing their growing relationship and making us care about them instead of diving straight into the action. They had great chemistry, which helped make up for the characters of her parents (played by Radha Mitchell & Marc Anthony) being a bit rubbish. But it’s hard to live up to Denzel’s massive star power so it’s impressive that the very young Fanning held her own against him where most the adult actors couldn’t.
Christopher Walken was also good, as always, as Denzel’s old friend in this but I’d have liked to see much more of him as well as finding out more about their shared tragic past & what has made Washington’s character so broken. So, yeah – great development of the Denzel/Dakota friendship but really would’ve loved to have found out much more about Washington’s character. This movie is very much two movies: the first half sets up the characters & friendship while the second half is Denzel going on a bloody, violent, revenge-fuelled murderous rampage. Oh boy! He was PISSED OFF. So that was fun and exactly what people like in a revenge thriller.
I actually finally decided to watch this after seeing a Twitter thread showing movies with very different audience & critic scores (audiences loved Man On Fire & critics hated it). I always find that fascinating. I now see why there’s the difference on this one. No, it’s not a good movie. As I said, it’s very cliché & predictable & a little cheesy. It’s also fun and has some great characters plus who doesn’t love a good revenge thriller?? I’m a wuss with violence but find I can stomach it a bit more when it’s for a good reason. I wanted Denzel to kill all those evil bastards! And Denzel gives his all in this – he’s not one of these good actors who just phones it in when he’s not in one of his more “Oscar-worthy” films. It’s why I’ve never paid much attention to reviews from professional critics. Are movies not allowed to just be enjoyable sometimes? I enjoyed this. It had exactly what I expect from an action thriller plus it actually gave us far better characters than what we get in a lot of other films in this genre. Admittedly, though, Denzel (as well as Dakota) are what really make this one work. I don’t think the movie would be as popular with a different lead actor. Denzel was perfect for this film.
My Rating: 7/10