Denzel Washington is one of the best actors of my time, and in my opinion, of all time. But, at only 26, I am pretty young in the "way of things", and I won't jump to the conclusion that I can compare him to actors of the early movies which I have yet to see. However, from what I have seen in my movie experiences, I find Denzel to be the type of scene-stealer that could hold his own with any co-star, and the type of person who is given a script and can carry the movie on just his acting alone. Even before I knew what Man on Fire was about, I had seen the movie poster with him and Dakota Fanning standing in front of a fire, and I already knew that I wanted to see it. No plot description, no story line, no co-stars were necessary to get me to go see a Denzel Washington movie. Such was his ability in former movies to impress me so much, that I now blindly will go watch him star on the big screen.
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Man on Fire came out as one of the big Spring movies this year, and I went to see it on opening day at my area theater. I was extremely excited to see it, because after seeing the previews, I knew this would be the serious type of movie that he excels best in. My favorite movie that he stars in is Crimson Tide, and I have been waiting for a while to see him play a role that comes across as similar on the screen. When I saw this film, I was very happy with the result, and knew that he had not lost a step in his acting prowess. People have been watching his films as a leading man since he struck it big in Philadelphia with Tom Hanks. That was what made him leading-man material, and he has taken it to the next level ever since then. In his latest movie, he was put to the task of one again taking on a role that would stretch his acting abilities, and make audiences fall in love with him all over again.
Man on Fire stars Denzel Washington as John Creasy, a run-down, burned-out, CIA operative who has had some life changing events take place in his past, that have caused him to give up on life. He is a husk of the man he once was, and we see him at what looks to be is worst as a person. He is unshaven, drinks a lot, and seems to take joy in nothing. Christopher Walken plays his best friend, who also worked for the CIA, and talks him into getting back into the work force. He is convinced that all Creasy needs to do is be active in his life, and he will pull out of the funk that he is in. He takes Creasy to Mexico City to be a bodyguard for the daughter of a big-time industrialist named Samuel Ramos. Ramos is played by Marc Anthony in a part that was pretty small, and which I was glad off, because Marc Anthony is a terrible actor. His wife Lisa is just glad to have someone looking after her daughter, and Ramos goes ahead and hires Creasy, because of his low asking price due to the fact that he is a heavy drinker.
In another great role for Dakota Fanning, she is cast as nine-year-old Pita Ramos, the daughter of Samuel Ramos. Being a big industrialist in Mexico City has its drawbacks, because recently there has been a wave of kidnappings sweeping throughout Mexico, and especially Mexico City. The movie even starts with a quick collage of images that center around kidnappings going on in the area. Fanning, is one of those cute young actresses that are out there making a name for themselves in roles where they are not the star, but rather the compliment to a bigger actor. You may have seen her recently in the movie Uptown Girls , which stared Brittany Murphy. In that movie, she was also quite good as a young girl going through some problems in life. In this film, she plays a young girl, who is sheltered a lot by her parents, and does not seem to have any friends of her own. In her free time, she takes on swimming, and seems to be quite good at it. It is not until Creasy comes along that she starts opening up as a person, and we get to see her stretch her legs as an actress.
Creasy takes the job as the bodyguard, only because he sees it as something to do in his spare-time, and he puts up his hard exterior to not let anyone see his emotions. But, soon enough Pita is able to break through his shell, and make him realize that there is still some good out there. He is soon very affectionate towards her, and takes to looking after her with great pride. Soon, he is back to being someone who cares about life again, and puts everything in his power behind keeping Pita safe. But, then one day, while her parents are away, Creasy takes her to a piano lesson and everything goes wrong. The end result is Pita being kidnapped, and Creasy being unable to stop it from happening. This is where the movie really gets started, as Creasy has the only thing left in his life that he cares deeply for stripped away by unknown forces. This is where he cracks and decides to take on the whole world to seek revenge for this kidnapping. Having let his defenses drop, and allowing himself to love again, he now only sees anger as he sets out to right a wrong that has been done. One quote that he says explains the entire situation "Forgiveness is between them and God. It's my job to arrange the meeting." Such is his thinking process as he goes on his road to redemption and revenge.
This film was directed by Tony Scott, and you often know what you are getting into when you see one of his films. His past work includes being involved in Days of Thunder, The Rock, and Bad Boys. All of these films, are chalk-full of action, and the premise of the stories all revolve around heart-pounding non-stop sequences that keep you glued to the edge of your seat.├ In this film, he sticks with the same shaky camera angles, and flickering images that he used in his other movie Enemy of the State staring Will Smith. I like the camera usage, and there is really no other Director out there who uses the same tactics, so it is fun to see his movies because of it. In this case, though, Scott used it to dictate how violent the movie was going to be. There were several scenes which were a little over the top on the violence scale, but helped to show exactly what Denzel's character was going through in his own mind. There was nothing but vengeance on the mind of Creasy through the middle part of the movie, and it was surely accentuated by the Director's use of photography and lighting in his shots.
Man on Fire is a good movie, which has a great ending to it. It is one of those Denzel Washington features that makes you never want to walk out to the restroom, because you fear missing one of his on screen lines. This movie is one of his better-acted films, and at times, I even thought that they could have used him even more in the film. Though he is the main character, there are times where he does not talk very much, but rather relies on the action unfolding around him to tell some of the story, and that was where I had wished he would have had more lines. While Denzel is at his best, there are parts of this film that do not quite make it up to his standards. Other than Dakota Fanning, he is not surrounded by anyone who shows any acting skill, or even seems like they could be good actors. The small part that Walken has, uses him unwisely in a role that plays down his stature as a bigger actor than a simple supporting role.
I enjoyed the film a lot, and I do think that I will see it again as soon as it hits the video stores. Denzel Washington (to nobody's surprise), once again shines in an acting role that was right up his alley. He continues to show just how good of an actor he is, and exactly why he won an Oscar that year for his leading role in Training Day. I highly recommend that you see this movie, and if it is still in theaters where you are, see it there before its too late.
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