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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Man on Fire (2004)


Starring: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Christopher Walken and Mickey Rourke
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 18
Available 09 February 2009

Panic is rising as Mexico City is becoming overrun by organised crime, and kidnappings are out of control. Ex-CIA operative and assassin John Creasy has lost faith in humanity, but things begin to change for him when he is hired to protect a wealthy couple’s nine-year-old daughter Pita. Events take a turn for the worse when Pita is snatched from Creasy’s watch. As he starts to tear away at the underworld’s infrastructure, Creasy takes apart all involved and exposes the ugly truth that the city is run by a corrupt and sophisticated organisation which he must destroy...

Man on Fire is based on A.J. Quinnell's (the pseudonym of the late Philip Nicholson) 1980 novel of the same name. This is a remake of the 1987 movie which was, like the novel, set in Italy. However, as Italy is no longer the kidnapping capital of the world, the action was moved to Mexico City for this updated version.

Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning are well cast as the bodyguard John Creasy and young girl, Pita Ramos, he's employed to look after. There's a real onscreen chemistry between the two and you can really believe that these two characters exist. Christopher Walken and Mickey Rourke are also well cast as Creasy's friend and the Ramos's family lawyer. I also loved Walken's last line: "I've nothing else to say."

I loved the fact that just as you think you're getting a handle on what the movie is all about, the narrative takes a darker turn. And as Creasy goes after the corrupt individuals of the Mexico City underworld it's interesting to see that he gets more and more inventive in his methods of dispatching those that are behind Pita's kidnapping. It's almost as though he's slowly getting back his skills from his CIA training that he wanted to leave behind.

Extras include two commentaries (one with the director Tony Scott and another with producer Lucas Foster, screenplay author Brian Helgeland and actress Dakota Fanning); Vengeance is Mine: Reinventing Man on Fire (1 hour, 12 min look at various aspects of the production including an interesting segment on bodyguards in training); Deleted Scenes (32 min, 30 sec collection of cut sequences with an optional audio commentary from the director. The alternative ending was interesting - interestingly enough that's how I'd originally thought the movie would end; also I'm glad the affair between Creasy and Lisa was dropped); Pita's Abduction: Multi-angle Test (4 min, 16 sec where you can chose the camera angle - with optional director's commentary); Tony Scott's Storyboards (a collection of the director's rough storyboard sketches); and a Photo Gallery.

The audio commentaries are particularly interesting. Scott tells us how he was originally going to direct the movie 22 year's ago; his stories about very close calls with the locals in Mexico City; and that they actually caught the volcano in the film as it was erupting - but cut it out of the film as it looked like a cheap effect. It's a shame that this wasn't included elsewhere on the disc as an extra. For the second commentary, highlights include the fact that at the end of the movie Creasy Bear was due to reappear, but was eventually cut, and Fanning points out (as Scott did in his commentary) that the director's hat makes a brief cameo appearance.

While Man on Fire is an entertaining enough movie, for me it is a watch once only affair - I doubt I'd dig it out and watch it again any time soon.


Nick Smithson

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