Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Man on Fire: All-Access Collector's Edition

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
8 out of 10
Extras Rating:
8 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: R

Starring:
Denzel Washington as Creasy
Dakota Fanning as Pita
Marc Anthony as Samuel
Radha Mitchell as Lisa
Christopher Walken as Rayburn
Giancarlo Giannini as Manzano
Rachel Ticotin as Mariana
Jesϊs Ochoa as Fuentes
Mickey Rourke as Jordan

Special Features:
Commentary by director Tony Scott

Commentary by co-star Dakota Fanning, producer Lucas Foster, and screenwriter Brian Hegeland

Deleted scenes and alternate ending with optional commentary

"Vengeance Is Mine" comprehensive documentary

Multi-angle sequence study

Storyboards and script excerpt

Still photo gallery

Music video

Trailers and TV spots

Other Info:
Anamorphic Widescreen (2.40:1)
DTS 5.1 Surround Sound
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish and French Language Track
Spanish and French Subtitles
Running Time: 146 Minutes

Synopsis:
This film is based on the novel by A.J. Quinnell.

Creasy is an ex-counter terrorism agent who is now retired. Looking for work and a way to escape his inner demons, he turns to his old friend Rayburn in Mexico for help. Rayburn lines him up a job as a bodyguard in Mexico City. He is to protect Pita, the young daughter of a wealthy businessman and his American wife. Kidnapping is a huge problem in Latin America and bodyguards are routinely employed.

As Creasy begins the job, he continues to struggle with alcoholism, depression, and suicidal tendencies. But over time he starts to grow closer to Pita and she helps him find new meaning in life. Creasy almost becomes a father figure for Pita.

Things take a tragic turn when Pita is kidnapped and held for ransom. This sets Creasy off and returns him to the world of violence that he thought he left behind. He begins to systematically hunt down everyone responsible for the kidnapping and kill them.

Man on Fire is rated R for language and strong violence.

The Movie:
Man on Fire really came out of nowhere and surprised me. I really had no interest in seeing this film. The trailers weren't impressive and the commercials didn't help much either. It was with some reluctance that I saw it. However, it didn't take long to hook me. Directed by Tony Scott (Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Spy Game, Crimson Tide), Man on Fire is a film that takes audiences on quite a roller coaster ride of emotions.

This movie is really two films in one. The first part is a sweet tale of redemption. We see the tormented Creasy slowly develop a relationship with Pita that is wholly believable. He goes from a suicidal assassin to a new man. You see him go from the depths of depression to a loving father figure. That's what gives the second half of the film such impact. It is a bloody, violent tale of revenge after the girl is kidnapped and Creasy is pushed over the edge. The way he battles the kidnappers is creative yet stomach churning at the same time. Creasy's "roaring rampage of revenge" makes the Bride from Kill Bill look like Snow White. There were times during Man on Fire where I thought this film was closer to the look and feel of the Punisher comic than the Punisher movie itself. You cheer for him to kill the bad guys but cringe when he actually follows through. It's total anarchy and it's really engrossing. Put the two halves together and you have quite a story.

Denzel Washington was perfect for the role of Creasy. He's believable as both the "nice guy" and the "bad guy". You buy into his character whether he's joking with the little girl Pita or he's cutting the fingers off of a man he's interrogating. Not many actors could pull that off, but Washington does. Creasy is a complex character full of contrasting sides. He's a born again Christian but also a cold-blooded assassin. He's suicidal but also capable of being a father figure. That makes him and his dark history all the more interesting.

Dakota Fanning supports Washington as Pita. She is talented beyond her years and it shows on the screen. She displays a good mixture of maturity and childishness that makes her seem like an average kid that Creasy could grow fond of. Her constant pestering of Creasy eventually wears down the walls that he built up and helps redeem him. Also appearing is Christopher Walken as Rayburn, Creasy's former colleague who has retired. Walken also has that right mixture of toughness and good humor that makes him instantly likable. His secret past with Creasy also makes him intriguing. Playing Pita's parents are Marc Anthony (yes, the singer) and Radha Mitchell (Pitch Black). Both are excellent and play their roles with the right amount of anguish. Giancarlo Giannini (Hannibal) and Rachel Ticotin (Total Recall) are also excellent as the Mexican police and reporter on the trail of the kidnappers.

The music in the film is an eclectic mix of tunes. At times it sounds like Hans Zimmer's Gladiator soundtrack. At other times there are bizarre remixes of Linda Ronstadt songs. Then later it switches to Mexican guitar music. It all comes together to give the movie a unique sound. One bizarre moment I'll never forget is when Creasy is torturing a man and a Mexican version of "Hey Mickey" is playing on the radio. It was totally surreal and made other people and I laugh.

One of the other unique things about Man on Fire is the use of subtitles. They appear literally all over the screen almost like comic book word balloons. They not only translate Spanish to English, but they highlight key phrases in the dialogue. I didn't like this at first but by the end of the movie it didn't bother me. In fact, I thought it was a nice divergence from the traditional subtitles at the bottom of the screen in a straight line.

The main thing I didn't like about Man on Fire was the camerawork. The camera zooms in and out. Images are grainy and flash by at a quick rate that is likely to induce epileptic seizures. The picture moves so much and so often that it can cause motion sickness. While this is hip, trendy, and stylistic, it wasn't to my tastes. I recognize that they were trying to create a certain mood with the look, but I didn't find it necessary.

The next thing isn't necessarily a gripe from me, but I imagine it's something that the PC Police is going to latch onto and complain about. Man on Fire is set entirely in Mexico City and most of the bad guys in the film are Mexican while most of the good guys are American. The Mexican police are shown as being corrupt and evil. The Americans are the ones that end up having to come in and shake things up. At one point Pita's mother even says that she's glad her daughter's new bodyguard is American. After basically showing Mexico City as a corrupt hellhole, the first credit at the end of the movie thanks the city and says it is a "very nice place". After what we saw, it seems to be sarcastic even if it isn't intended that way. While none of this bothered me, I bet some Mexicans will be very upset by it.

Man on Fire is one of those rare movies that comes out of nowhere and really surprises you. While I wouldn't call it a movie for everyone (thanks to the disturbing violence), it is an engrossing tale of revenge that is well worth checking out.

The Extras:
When this DVD was first released, they put a minimal number of bonus features on it. Now, months later, they have put a respectable number of extras on this set. Unfortunately, it seems to me that everyone that would have bought this collector's edition already owns the movie. While I don't think it's worth buying this DVD if you already own Man on Fire, I do have to say that the bonus features are pretty interesting. Here are the highlights of what you'll find in the new stuff:

Deleted scenes and alternate ending with optional commentary – There are 14 deleted scenes. Notable among them is a sub-plot where Creasy actually has sex with Lisa, thus throwing a major problem into his working relationship with the family. This brief liaison is brought on when Creasy protects Lisa during a hit on another wealthy person protected by a bodyguard. Also included is more history on Creasy where he reveals more about his family, how he got his scars, etc. We also see more interaction between Creasy, the reporter, and the cop (who is shown in a transvestite bar, ack!). Creasy is also shown killing another one of the kidnappers. There's also an alternate ending showing Creasy blowing himself and the lead kidnapper up at his apartment. All total, there's over a half hour of deleted scenes.

"Vengeance Is Mine" comprehensive documentary – This is an extensive documentary on the making of the film. They cover the writing of the script, changing the location from Italy to Mexico, casting the film, shooting in Mexico, and the unique camera tricks used in the film. You'll find tons of behind the scenes footage, interviews with the cast and crew, and more. Director Tony Scott relates one story of a run-in he and his bodyguard had with a gang in a Mexican barrio. You begin to see why there aren't many movies that film there.

Multi-angle sequence study, Storyboards and script excerpt – This section breaks down the kidnapping scene with Pita. They show the original script, Tony Scott's rough stoyboards, then a multi-angle view of the shooting of the scene. You can watch this with commentary from the director.

Music video – This is the video for "Oye Como Va" by Kinky. It's a good song, but it seems oddly out of place with the rest of the movie. The band is shown singing in various locations in Mexico along with footage from the film and a hot woman in a red dress. Ay ay ay!

The following bonus features were on the previous DVD edition of Man On Fire:

Commentary by director Tony Scott – Tony Scott has quite a bit to say about this film. He talks about how he originally saw it as an Italian film and was inspired to do an American remake. He talks about how he got the film set and filmed in Mexico. He offers up all sorts of trivia on the making of the movie. It's definitely an informative commentary.

Commentary by co-star Dakota Fanning, producer Lucas Foster, and screenwriter Brian Hegeland – Though Denzel Washington is glaringly absent from this commentary, it is still entertaining. I was impressed yet again by Dakota Fanning. Her conversation is incredibly mature and she offered lots of insight into her character and the other characters in the film. Foster and Hegeland carry on all sorts of conversation with her and they periodically joke around to lighten the mood. All in all it's a good commentary.

The Bottom Line:
Man on Fire is a surprisingly entertaining film featuring strong performances by Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning. If you like action movies or tales of redemption and revenge then you'll want to check this out, but beware of the violence.

Order this DVD @ Amazon

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