Movie Reviews (such as they are)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Man On Fire

Candy Minx recommended I watch Man On Fire, which stars Denzel Washington and Christopher Walken, and is directed by Tony (True Romance) Scott.

The synopsis: Denzel is assigned his first job as a bodyguard in Mexico City. His charge is a little American girl (played by Dakota Fanning), the daughter of rich parents. Such families are targets for kidnappings because the ransoms can be high. Inevitably, the kid gets nabbed; and while this is happening, Denzel gets more bullets put in him than Tupac on a bad day. And thus, when Denzel recovers from his ass-whupping, we come to the essence of the story: revenge. Indeed, the tagline is "Revenge is a meal best served cold". (Of course, we Seinfeld fans know that the best revenge is living well, but that's a whole other story.) Denz sets out to put in the ground every last one of those involved in the kidnap.

Now..., before sitting down to watch the film, Wife and I made a pact. She really didn't want to watch it. She thinks that Tony Scott is useless, and that 130-odd minutes is way too much time to waste on any film he directed. So we agreed that we'd give it an hour. If she was hating it at that point, we'd turn off and I'd watch the rest alone another day. That first hour built up the rapport between Denzel and Fanning. Indeed, this build-up to the story took us up to about 75 minutes. And it was good stuff, I must say. We continued watching, but after that first 75 minutes I knew Wife was bored. She's not a shoot-em-up kind of gal; she's not mad keen on watching people having their fingers removed one at a time; she's not a fan of the action movie. But she is a woman of her word, so we kept watching.

The review: I must say I was surprised. I thought the initial build-up scenes would be the dullest bit, while we waited for the real film to start. But in the end, I found they were the most satisfying elements because we really saw some acting and some (a little) depth to the characters. Once the mayhem commenced it all became a little formulaic. That's not to say it was bad, per se, just a little ... old. It was well handled, though, by Scott. The screenplay was by LA Confidential scribe Brian Helgeland, but it was nowhere near up to that previous film's standard. The bit Wife and I were most looking forward to was the line quoted in the Time Out Film Guide, when Walken says of Denzel: "His art is death, and he's about to paint his masterpiece." In fact, I'd spent about 20 minutes before watching the film trying to deliver that line without laughing. It was nigh on impossible!

Scores on the doors: Hmm. Not wholly satisfying, but not bad. How does 66 out of 100 sound?