Man On Fire
By Dennis D. McDonald
Yes, we get to see Denzel kick some serious ass in what has to be one of the best kidnapping-revenge movies I’ve ever seen. What makes this movie rise far above its standard story and outdated “NYPD Blue” jumpy photography is a set of terrific performance by all main and supporting characters.
Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning are extraordinary as the recovering-alcoholic security professional and the child he is hired to protect in Mexico City. Christopher Walken craftily plays Washington’s sympathetic (!) friend who arranges the bodyguard job. Giancarlo Giannini and Rachel Ticotin help Denzel; he’s an honest cop and she’s a newspaper reporter.
The centerpiece is the relationship that develops between Denzel and Dakota. At one point he tells her that he was hired to be her bodyguard not her friend. We suspect at that point that a friendship will develop. It does. Because of the skill of these two and the superior directing, the friendship is entirely believable.
The friendship takes second place in the latter part of the movie as we watch Denzel track down and destroy the little girl’s kidnappers. It is violent but believable, even when Denzel shows up with firepower we never knew he possessed. By then the movie is on autpilot as it careens to its emotional climax.
Downsides: Hans Zimmer’s music sounds like a re-tread of what we’ve already heard in “Gladiator.” The jumpy photography gives a 20th-Century feel to what is otherwise lush and gorgeous photography. But that’s OK — this is a great action film which has at its center what we frequently don’t see with action films - a heart.