Tuesday, February 27, 2024

2K Replay: MAN ON FIRE

 by Adam Riske

Nominated for “Best Supporting Actress” (Dakota Fanning) at the Golden Schmoes Awards. She lost to Natalie Portman in Closer.

• Best Scene/Moment (tie): Any scene between Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning and the completely nuts last 30 seconds of the movie going into the end credits which include a cursory shout out to Mexico City after the filmmakers have made the city look nothing but perilous for the past 2-½ hours.

• Best Song (tie): “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy and “The Mark Has Been Made” by Nine Inch Nails.
• Best Merch: A “Man on Fire Movie Promo Creasey Bear” for $100.00. It looks like this was a promotional item from the Man on Fire home video release, but I still can’t quite believe my eyes that this exists. I would totally buy this if it were $20.00.

• Director Grade: Man on Fire was directed by the late, great Tony Scott, who was a filmmaker that consistently made entertaining and rewatchable movies throughout his career. Few people did macho action cinema as well as Tony Scott. The first Tony Scott movie I saw was Top Gun, which I still love and was something I watched countless times on cable over the years. I’m also a really big fan of The Last Boy Scout, Enemy of the State, True Romance, and Crimson Tide, which is my favorite of his films with frequent collaborator Denzel Washington. I don’t love the early to mid-2000s period of Scott’s career (the run of Spy Game-Man on Fire-Domino) as much although he rebounded for me with most of his final films, including Déjà Vu and Unstoppable. Overall Grade: A

• Double It with This 2004 Movie: The Manchurian Candidate

• Year 2004 Movies to Trailer Before It: Kill Bill Vol. 2, The Punisher, Walking Tall
Color of Night or Man on Fire? Color of Night

• Mall Movie? Yeah probably. Most of the latter Tony Scott-Denzel Washington collaborations (including this, Deja Vu, The Taking of Pelham 123, and Unstoppable) feel just enough like mall movies.

• Only in 2004: Giancarlo Giannini in the John Pankow role. If you’ve seen To Live and Die in L.A., you know what I mean.

• Scene Stealer (tie): Dakota Fanning, or, if she’s too much a lead, Christopher Walken.

• I Miss: Tony Scott.

• I Don’t Miss: The look and feel of the movie. I’m not sure if it should be attributed to the cinematography, editing or a combination of both, but it’s a jittery nightmare at times.

• 2004 Crush: Radha Mitchell.

• 2024 Crush: Radha Mitchell.
• What I Thought in 2004: I was very mixed on it. I loved the first half and disliked the second half almost as much in part because I didn’t love Tony Scott’s new dingier, more aggressive style that really went into overdrive with Man on Fire and Domino. Also, the ending of Man on Fire bummed me out. I’m fine with sad endings but this one felt unusually depressing and made me not want to revisit it.

• What I Think in 2024: I liked Man on Fire slightly more this time than I did 20 years ago but that’s bumping a 2 star out of 4 movie to 2-½ stars. The first hour is great as it establishes an interesting Denzel Washington character and his relationship with the young girl he’s hired to bodyguard (Dakota Fanning, who’s terrific in the movie). When Man on Fire switches gears into a revenge saga it gets monotonous for me. The most interesting thing on this rewatch was realizing I completely misinterpreted the final moments with Denzel Washington’s character. I thought (SPOILER) he was on his way to be tortured and killed when he actually just died from his wounds in the car. So not happy, but not as depressing.

1 comment:

  1. Great write up, Adam! I love this movie but the ending is a kick in the ribs for sure. I can't help but wonder what kind of movies Tony Scott would be making now. He's a director who always evolved and invented new ways of doing his very Tony Scott thing. Not all of those experiments worked, but I love that he didn't just settle into a groove and call it a day.