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July 20, 2018

Man on Fire (2004) --- “A Promise To Protect. A Vow To Avenge. Sabotage His Work And His Fury Will Be Unleashed.”

Plot Summary
In a Mexico City wracked by a recent wave of kidnappings, ex-CIA operative John Creasy (Denzel Washington) reluctantly accepts a job as a bodyguard for 9-year-old Lupita (Dakota Fanning), the daughter of wealthy businessman Samuel Ramos (Marc Anthony). Just as Creasy begins to develop a fondness for the young girl, a bloodthirsty gunman (Jesús Ochoa) kidnaps her. Now, Creasy must pick off a succession of corrupt cops and criminals to reach his ultimate object of vengeance. (1)

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Hello, Movie Buffs! 
     Man on Fire (2004) is intense and dramatic, to say the least. Split into two parts and comprised of a complex and sensitive story, director Tony Scott (Unstoppable) and writer Brian Helgeland (Robin Hood) have crafted one of the best crime thrillers I have ever seen. The story is complex so you have to pay attention to them in order to understand the story as a whole. Most films that are broken into two halves don’t always live up to their potential but this film seamlessly combines both halves into a whole film.

     The first half of the film is as bright as the little girl Pita, Creasy’s young charge. We see the world through the eyes of a child, who has grown up in a difficult situation that has given her wisdom and charm beyond her years. This charm allows her to be friendly to everyone she meets and in turn become disappointed when her new bodyguard rebuffs her attempt at being his friend. However, her wisdom allows her to take a longer look a Creasy’s character and determines that, despite his tough exterior, he is worth the effort to befriend. She draws him into a game of emotional chess that brings them closer than either has experienced before. She teaches him how to enjoy life again and he, in turn, teaches her some valuable life lessons. But despite the charm and brightness of this first act, we know from the trailers that it will ultimately lead to a much darker second act.
     The second half of the film gives audiences a sugar-coated look into the dark world that surrounds Pita’s life. Vengeance is dealt in a chaotic and violent yet controlled and methodical manner that makes The Godfather look like child’s play. In short, this story is gripping with perfect pacing and interesting twists to keep audiences attention through to the end. And the characters further carry this intense and gripping characters.
     The cast performances were great, the most noteworthy being Denzel Washington (The Equalizer 2) and Dakota Fanning (I Am Sam; Ocean’s 8). Director Quinton Tarintino (The Hateful Eight) describes Denzel as “tough as nails" and that is exactly how he is. I believe that this was one of the roles that set Denzel up to playing in Inside Man (2006), The Book of Eli (2010), and The Equalizer 1 & 2 (’14 and ‘18). His ability to deliver this kind of role with depth and range demonstrates his skill as an actor and Director Scott could not have cast a better person for the role. Dakota Fanning is one of the few child actors who managed to not go crazy and it has been an honor to watch her grow as an actor throughout the years. Here she is a joyful addition to the cast as she uses her endless banter and charm to help a broken man heal. Radha Mitchell (The Shack) and Marc Anthony are natural as the parents, Christopher Walken (Father Figures) leaves a mark, and Giancarlo Giannini is adequate.

     Overall, Man on Fire (2004) is an excellent, suspenseful, and gripping film that deserves far more recognition then it has received. Neither life nor art is perfect and that is exactly what this film demonstrates to audiences. The story is gripping with perfect pacing and interesting twists to keep audiences attention through to the end. And the characters further carry this intense and gripping characters. We have to learn from the bad but not let it overtake our lives until we are nothing but our former selves, we must learn how to live again.  The cast performances were great and are essential in carrying the story along. If you enjoyed films like The Equalizer 1 & 2 (’14 and ‘18), and Inside Man (2006) then you will enjoy this film as I highly recommend it.

"Revenge is a meal best served cold."
- Creasy

Final Vote
Worth Seeing:  8 of 10 star
Worth Buying: 8 of 10 stars

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