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Man on Fire (2004) - Review

I was initially very anxious to see Man on Fire. The movie's trailers and commercials had made it seem to be a fast paced, exciting action movie with an almost artistic sense of filming direction. Upon viewing it, however, I was sorely disappointed.While both Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning had excellent chemistry on screen, and I suppose that it was important for the plot of the movie to create a sense of their mutual attachment, I found the beginning of the movie to be extremely slow paced, and almost boring. If it wasn't for the promise of coming action, I probably would have turned off the film.

Even when Fanning's character Pita is kidnapped (A plot twist which is obvious from the beginning of the movie), I feel the action still does not pick up sufficiently. Washington enacts his revenge on the kidnappers by killing them one by one, but there is only one firefight in the entire movie, which occurs at the initial kidnapping. All of his other encounters with villains are one sided, with Creasy (Washington) torturing them to extract information, and then killing them. While I found his method of killing corrupt cop Fuentes with anally packed C4 to be clever, I did not find the repetitive shooting/cutting off of limbs of the other villains to be particularly interesting.

I was also disappointed by the style of the movie, something I was greatly anticipating. Action scenes are presented in a disjointed manner, with many quick changing camera angles, fuzzy images, and sudden sound effects to create a sense of how disorienting the action is. While this was fun to watch at first, it occurred so frequently that it disoriented me, and actually made the film less fun to watch.

A final complaint I have with Man on Fire is the ending. At the end Creasy gives himself up to the kidnappers in exchange for Pita, and dies in their car. I feel that the ending is trying too hard for drama; this is an action movie, and the attempt to make a statement through Washington's death is out of place. I also found myself wondering why Creasy had to give himself up: I feel he was fully capable of getting away alive. Why did he have to keep his deal with the same people he was trying to kill only hours earlier?

Perhaps I'm being too hard on the film because I went into it with high expectations, which it did not live up to. It is not a horrible movie, and there are a few entertaining scenes. It was just a disappointment because I expected something so much better than a standard action/thriller, which is what Man on Fire is.

Film Filter Rating: 2.5 / 4

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