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Denzel Washington Protects Dakota Fanning in Man on Fire

Apr 29, 2004
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Acting and interesting story idea

Cons:Very violent. Jerky camera and strange lighting at times.

The Bottom Line: Man on Fire was entertaining. Fans of Denzel Washington may enjoy the movie.


I first saw a preview for Man on Fire in November or December of 2003. Since then, I have seen the trailer many times at the theater. For a while, I saw it every time I went to a movie. I did think that it looked like it would be interesting. There are several movies out now that I would like to see. Man on Fire was the last one I saw.

There were some statistics given about kidnapings as the opening credits of the movie played. There is a kidnaping every sixty minutes in Latin America. Most of the victims do not survive.

Samuel was talking with his lawyer Jordan about a recent kidnaping. A ransom had been paid and the victim was returned home, though he was missing a body part. It was common for people to have insurance to cover ransoms in the event of a kidnaping and most people had a bodyguard. Samuel had fired his last bodyguard, and if he didn’t get a new one, he wouldn’t be able to renew his ransom insurance policy. His wife Lisa wanted a new bodyguard.

John Creasy traveled to Mexico to visit his friend Rayburn. The two men had worked together in the past. Creasy was troubled by something. Rayburn suggested that Creasy get a job as a bodyguard. Creasy had never done that before, but he had many years experience in the military. Creasy ended up meeting with Samuel, and then Lisa and their daughter Lupita. Lisa liked Creasy and hired him on the spot. Lupita also liked Creasy.

Creasy intended to keep his distance from Lupita and he discouraged her from asking too many questions. Creasy had some self destructive behavior, but that changed after one night. He started to take more of an interest in Lupita. He helped her train for a swimming meet and helped her with her homework. She even got him to smile. One day Creasy was badly injured trying to stop several men from kidnaping Lupita. He woke up in a hospital a few days later and learned that Lupita had been kidnaped. Creasy took the law into his own hands once he recovered. Manzano was investigating the kidnaping and some other cases that might be related. He was concerned about Creasy’s safety. Mariana, a reporter, was willing to help Creasy so she could get a story.

CAST

Denzel Washington - John Creasy
Dakota Fanning - Lupita
Marc Anthony - Samuel
Radha Mitchell - Lisa
Christopher Walken - Rayburn
Giancarlo Giannini - Manzano
Rachel Ticotin - Mariana
Mickey Rourke - Jordan
Tony Scott - Director

Man on Fire was released on April 23, 2004. The movie was 146 minutes long and rated R.

There was a lot going on in Man on Fire. The first part of the movie showed Creasy visiting with his friend and then starting a job as a bodyguard despite the fact that he was on a self-destructive path. Very little was shared about Creasy’s past. Later in the movie, a little more was revealed, but some things remained a mystery. He warmed up to Lupita and started to be happy with life. Then Lupita was kidnaped. Creasy was almost killed trying to stop the kidnaping, and once he recovered, he set out to get the men responsible for the kidnaping. The fact that Lupita was kidnaped was shown in every trailer I saw for the movie, along with some of what happened after the kidnaping. I liked the first part of the movie better, especially when Lupita and Creasy were doing things together. There were even some funny moments in the first part of the movie. That changed with the last half of the movie. It got darker and more intense. I did still enjoy the rest of the movie for the most part, but I didn’t think the second half was as good. There were one or two things that happened that I didn’t like, but I’m not saying anything specific about those things because they would be spoilers.

Man on Fire was a very violent movie. It is one of the most violent movies I have seen recently. I did expect the movie to be violent before I saw it from the previews I saw, but I was still a bit shocked by some things that were in the movie. There were some things that happened that were downright gruesome. I closed or covered my eyes several times. There was a little violence shown during the opening credits. After that, there wasn’t any more violence until the kidnaping. The rest of the movie was very violent, and most of the violence was carried out by Creasy. He did some things that were very unpleasant. At one point, Rayburn was talking about Creasy and he said something that was very telling about what Creasy was up too. Rayburn said that murder was Creasy’s art, and he was starting his masterpiece. I found that description to be very true. There were several explosions in the movie. Violent acts were used to get some people to share what they knew. The violent acts were different from anything I’ve seen in a movie before, especially something that was done to one person. This movie is probably too violent for some people. Anyone who is offended or upset by violence in movies shouldn’t see this one. No children of any age should see this movie.


There were times throughout the movie when the picture was very jerky. It was more than just the camera jumping around to different angels. At times it was like the camera had been sitting on top of a washing machine during the spin cycle. That was very annoying to me. When that happened, I couldn’t really tell what was going on. There was some very strange lighting used during many of the really jerky scenes. The colors were just weird sometimes. They flashed so much that it hurt my eyes and it was impossible to see what was going on. There was no need for all that flashing color and the jerkiness. There was one scene that took place inside a night club that had all kinds of strobe lights going. That was bad too, but at least there was a reason for that sort of lighting in that scene since it was in a nightclub. Since the movie took place in Mexico, Spanish was spoken by some of the characters. Subtitles were used most of the time that Spanish was spoken. The subtitles didn’t stay at the bottom of the screen like they have usually done in other movies with subtitles that I have seen. They popped up all over the screen. The size of the lettering wasn’t always the same. A few times, subtitles were shown for some things that were said in English. I think that was done to emphasize what was being said.

The acting in Man on Fire was very good. Denzel Washington is a very talented actor who has played many different roles. I have seen several of his movies and enjoyed them and his performances. Denzel Washington was very believable as Creasy. The character had some demons, though it was never really explained what those were. I figured that they were somehow tied to a job that went bad, but it wasn’t said for sure what had happened to set Creasy on his path to self destruction. One time near the beginning of the movie, Creasy had some sort of flashback to whatever was haunting him. It wasn’t shown what happened, it only showed Creasy’s reactions to his memories. Creasy changed throughout the movie, and the changes were believable because of the way Denzel played the part.

Christopher Walken’s part as Rayburn wasn’t that big. He only showed up a few times, and I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t have more to do in the movie. I do like Christopher Walken, but he is rather creepy to me in many of his movies. In America's Sweethearts, he was a bit creepy, but in a funny way. His part wasn’t that big in that movie either. In others, his characters were just a bit odd in some way. He can play scary, serious, or funny parts, and I have seen him do all three. Rayburn was one of the more normal characters I have seen him play, though there were a few little quirks here and there.

I thought that Dakota Fanning was wonderful as Lupita. I’d only seen her in The Cat in the Hat before this, but she is a talented girl. I really liked her parts in the movie. She was adorable. She wasn’t annoying like some child actors can be. She and Denzel were great in their scenes together. Marc Anthony, the singer, played Lupita’s father Samuel. He didn’t have as many scenes as some of the characters, but I thought he was good in the part. This was the first movie I’ve ever seen him in, and I had no idea he acted as well. When I was double checking some cast information I found that he has been in several other movies. Mickey Rourke turned up a few times as Jordan, Samuel’s lawyer. Rourke had a bigger part in Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Rachel Ticotin played the reporter that was interested in Creasy. I didn’t recognize her during the movie, but I found out later that she had a small part in Something's Gotta Give.

CHARACTERS

John Creasy - He was a former military man haunted by something from his past. He took a job as a bodyguard and grew to care for the little girl he was protecting. He was willing to do whatever it took to get revenge once she was kidnaped.

Lupita - The young girl that Creasy was protecting. She liked him right from the start and wanted to be his friend. She played the piano and was a swimmer. She liked swimming more, but her father wanted her to study piano. She was a very smart girl and said things that shocked Creasy at times.

Samuel and Lisa - Lupita’s parents. Samuel was some kind of business man. Lisa didn’t work. Lisa made the decision to hire Creasy. Samuel did things to try to keep his wife happy.

Rayburn - Friend of Creasy’s. Rayburn had moved to Mexico and started a new life. He was happy. He was worried about Creasy and helped him get a job as a bodyguard.

Mariana - A reporter who was working on a story about all the kidnapings. She wanted to interview Creasy and she did what she could to get him some information that would help him.

Jordan - Samuel’s lawyer. Jordan had worked for Samuel’s father.

Man on Fire was an entertaining movie, but it was very violent. I expected that, but some of what happened still shocked me. People who aren’t bothered by a lot of violence in movies may enjoy it.

Related Reviews

The Cat in the Hat ~ America's Sweethearts ~ Something's Gotta Give ~ Once Upon a Time in Mexico ~


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