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Man on Fire
2004 - R - 146 Mins.
Director: Tony Scott
Producer: Tony Scott, Arnon Milchan
Written By: Brian Helgeland
Starring: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Radha Mitchell, Christopher Walken
Review by: Joe Rickey

'Man on Fire', all right.
A top-flight action thriller stylishly directed by Tony Scott and featuring a commanding lead performance by Denzel Washington, ‘Man on Fire’ is a stunningly powerful tale of revenge (Along with ‘Walking Tall’, ‘Kill Bill: Vol. 2’, and ‘The Punisher’ also in theatres now, I’d say that the theme of revenge has been thoroughly covered by recent releases). Coincidentally, as the last of such films to be released for a month or so, ‘Man on Fire’ is by far the most dark and serious film of the bunch in its story of a former covert operative (Denzel Washington) turned bodyguard for a precocious young girl (Dakota Fanning) who embarks on a trail of revenge after the girl is kidnapped on his watch. His journey takes him to the center of the Mexican underworld where he discovers that the kidnapping of the children of wealthy parents is a booming business.

A film such as this relies on finding a heart and soul in its characters, finding something that will allow us, the viewers; to grab hold and begin to care about the characters it creates. ‘Man on Fire’ finds its heart and soul in the form of the relationship between the hard-edged Creasy (Washington) and the instantly likable Pita, played by Fanning, who is perhaps the single most talented child actor working in Hollywood right now. The film spends the better part of forty minutes developing their relationship as she teaches him to open himself up to others and live; really live. She sees in him a sense of good that just needs some encouragement to break free. Over the years he had cocooned himself in a world of frequent drinking and other not so healthy habits, and it is this young girl who is able to finally allow him to not just tolerate; but love another human being. The two actors sell their relationship in excellent fashion as the relationship is made believable by two great actors; one a respected Oscar winner, the other with no doubt a long career in film ahead of her.

Once Pita is snatched away, the film becomes a showcase for the talents of Denzel Washington, as he will do anything necessary to get his friend back. He has such an enigmatic screen presence that is consistently riveting; so much so that one isn’t able to take their eyes off of him. He illustrates so much command of the screen that the necessity of the viewer believing his transformation into a one-man army is no more than an afterthought. He is aided by solid performances in supporting roles by both screen veterans and newcomers. As a longtime acquaintance of Creasy, Christopher Walken turns in a signature quirky performance that is, as always, effective. As Pita’s father, singer turned actor Marc Anthony is surprisingly good in his limited time on screen. In the role of Pita’s mother, Radha Mitchell (‘Thirteen Ghosts’) is able to effortlessly portray the pain a mother would no doubt feel after her child has been ruthlessly taken from her.

With ‘Man on Fire’ the viewer is treated to an unpredictable story anchored by Denzel Washington’s best performance since his Oscar winning turn in ‘Training Day’ back in 2001.
Movie Guru Rating
A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic.
  5 out of 5 stars

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