Washington's Getting Even
After a life of legal killing having worked for the CIA, former operative John Creasy (Denzel Washington) is full of self loathing over all the people he has killed and tries to blot out the feeling through drink. Through old friend Paul Rayburn (Christopher Walken) he takes the position of bodyguard to nine year old Pita Ramos (Dakota Fanning) whose persistence helps Creasy start to feel for others once again and blot out the guilt of the past. So when Pita ends up kidnapped nothing is going to stop him from making every single person involved pay for what they have done no matter who they are.
Money, time and vision are what stand between a mediocre movie which might get a direct to DVD release and one which is praised by many. If you don't believe me then take a look at "Man on Fire" and for a minute ignore the casting or production and focus on the story and characters. What we have is a typical story of a man full of self loathing finding his soul through a friendship with a young girl he protects before going all Rambo to make others pay for what they have done. That plot would not be out of place in a direct to DVD movie starring Seagal, Van Damme or even Christian Slater. Don't get me wrong as I like the story but it isn't anything new and it is money, time and vision which make "Man on Fire".
Now when I say time I do not mean running time although at 146 minutes "Man on Fire" is pushing its limits. Nope what I mean is that this isn't a one take movie but has scenes clearly crafted both whilst being shot and in post editing. That increase in time and clearly more money to spend means that director Tony Scott can take time to create a perfect looking shot with more original camera work whilst also having better actors and better script writers which means the final production looks a lot more finished especially as it has time to delve in to back stories.
The one thing which "Man on Fire" has is Denzel Washington who brings to the role his charisma and it that which really lifts the movie, which makes a cute scene of him bonding with young Pita more entertaining and allows us to connect to him. This is all the more clear when we then get to watch him go bad ass as he sets about getting revenge. Whilst Washington makes the performance the chemistry with Dakota Fanning also helps to draw you in and make you feel more for the characters.
What this all boils down to is that "Man on Fire" is from a narrative just another good guy gets the bad guy movies with some obvious twists. But because of the cast, the director's vision and a bigger budget it is much better than most of its direct to DVD cousins, although at almost two and a half hours it is pushing the limits.