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Man On Fire

Title: Man On Fire

Director: Tony Scott

Stars: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, et al.

Reviewer: Matt Eccles

Rating (out of 10): 5


With Tony Scott at the helm, Denzel Washington in the starring role and a cast that includes Christopher Walken, Mickey Rourke and precocious rising star Dakota Fanning, it came as no surprise that this summer revenge actioner became a hefty box office hit in the US.

The premise is straightforward: in Mexico City, apparently the kidnap capital of the world, hard-drinking ex-assassin Creasy (Washington) somehow winds up being employed as a bodyguard to 10-year-old Pita (Fanning). Creasy’s initial stolidity is quickly eroded by the irresistable charm of the youngster, and they establish a close relationship as he oversees such things as her swimming training and history homework.

Of course, Pita is kidnapped, Creasy is almost fatally wounded and the subsequent ransom drop is sabotaged. Assuming Pita has been murdered, Creasy, with the aid of a suspicious reporter (Rachel Ticotin), sets out on a brutal rampage of revenge to home in on the man behind it all, extracting confessions and killing off those involved as he goes.

Such is the multiple personality disorder that fatally hampers this overlong film; an uneasy combination of sweet sentiment and stomach-twisting sadism, Creasy switching from soft-hearted father figure to callous, seemingly invincible killing machine faster than the constant, brain-buzzing whip-crash editing that has become a Scott trademark.

The credibility of the pock-marked script decreases in proportion to the running time, hence by the end there remains too many elementary questions left hanging. What is most disappointing is that we know Scott is capable of better films that mesh compassion and carnage, like 1993’s True Romance; that it was written by the man who delighted us with Pulp Fiction, and this was penned by Brian Helgeland, who short-changed us with Payback, probably says it all.

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