CORPORATE LINE: John Creasy (Denzel Washington) is a lost soul. A former government operative, he has become an alcoholic nomad, searching for inspiration and redemption. An old friend (Christopher Walken) who lives in Mexico gets Creasy a job as a bodyguard for nine-year-old Lupita “Pita” Ramos (Dakota Fanning), the daughter of Mexican Samuel (Marc Anthony) and his American wife Lisa (Radha Mitchell). Creasy’s primary job is to protect Pita from the kidnapping attempts that are an increasing menace to the children of Mexico City’s wealthy. A man of few words and many secrets, Creasy initially balks at Pita’s attempts to befriend him, but soon a bond grows between the precocious child and this lonely man who is tormented by his past. When Pita is kidnapped despite Creasy’s valiant attempts to save her, he will do anything to bring all of those involved to justice. His fury unravels a net of almost unimaginable corruption and greed in the process. Director Tony Scott (TOP GUN, CRIMSON TIDE) builds the relationship between Creasy and Pita in the first half of the film in order to justify Creasy’s violent actions in the latter half, and in the process he does a fine job of keeping the film’s tension consistently high.
THE GOOD: Man on Fire is only worth watching because of Denzel Washington and Christopher Walken who spices up a rather pedestrian film.
THE BAD: We know Denzel Washington can act yet he gives the impression content to take parts that don’t push his abilities. Man on Fire is overcooked and full of clichés. The setup is there from minute one as we know what will happen from beginning to end. It’s a story that has been done over and over again. And when new lines are written they are so trite that it’s laughable—thankfully they are often delivered by the always brilliant Christopher Walken.
DVD FEATURES: Soft on extras. There is a tired commentary with Tony Scott—tired because he makes you sleepy. He offers some insight, but after watching the film do you really care? The second commentary is with producer Lucas Forster, writer Brian Helgeland, and Dakota Fanning. Its better than the first commentary but still nothing too interesting. Fox didn’t forget to offer upcoming previews—bet you couldn’t do without those.
FRANKLY: Man on Fire is flaccid even when it’s trying to conjure up the entire school of revenge.