Movie Monday Vol. 5:
Man On Fire

Mondays at The Blog are bittersweet. Especially the morning after "The Sopranos" finale. On one hand, we have that stereotypical attitude toward the start of the work week. And on the other, we get to check out another newspaper/journalism film review thanks to the overwhelmingly popular Movie Monday feature. Not a bad catch-22 (which was a 1970 Mike Nichols comedy, BTW).

This week, the Arizona Daily Star's Mike Rice takes us inside a three-year-old Denzel Washington action/thriller that has a nice little newspaper subplot.

Ya know how Mike got involved with The Blog's Movie Monday? He sent us an e-mail and said he wanted to do one. Not surprisingly, we said "Yes." And here it is. What are YOU waiting for?

"Man On Fire"
As reviewed by Mike Rice, Visual Team Leader/Design & Graphics, Arizona Daily Star

Released: 2004. Length: 2:26.

Director: Tony Scott. Stars: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Christopher Walken, Rachel Ticotin, Mickey Rourke ... and the sights and sounds of Mexico City.

Find it here: At a Best Buy, video store (or Netflix, anyone?) or Amazon.com near you.

Awards Circuit: Won a BMI Film Music award for Harry Gregson-Williams' (The "Shrek" films, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe") score.

What Leonard Maltin says: "Told in director Scott's self-indulgent style, with uncomfortable close-ups, smash cuts with loud sound effects and handheld grainy shots in the middle of scenes for no reason at all. Too bad." (**) (From Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide)

Dissenting opinion -- What E! Online says: "Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning's charm and charisma help hoist this revenge flick above the rest."

Plot synopsis: When we meet Denzel Washington's John Creasy, he is a broken man. Drunk. Heartless. Alone. When an old friend (Walken) brings the mercenary to Mexico City to serve as the bodyguard to a rich man's daughter, Pita (Fanning), things start to turn around. But when his charge is kidnapped, all hell breaks loose.

Newspaper connection: Yeah, it's a stretch. But it's a good movie, so you'll have to forgive that. Washington's character befriends a reporter (Ticotin) at Reforma who helps him down his path of death and destruction. And she lands one heckuva scoop along the way.

Mike's review: The film starts a bit slow -- but you have to build something up before you can tear it apart, right? The first half of the movie focuses on establishing Creasy's character. It is because of this, and the emotional investment we gain from it, that the action in the last half of the film works so well. Creasy is out for vengeance, and because we have watched his relationship with Pita grow, we want to follow him.

The action is only one reason to watch this film. The other, and perhaps greater, is to watch director Tony Scott's visual assault.

Much of the movie is spoken in Spanish or whispers, so the director makes use of subtitles. Scott's typography dances across the screen, almost serving as punctuation for each scene. Add to that his almost ADD-inducing camera work (quick cuts, playing with camera speed, color, close-ups and more), which helps to emphasize the energy and claustrophobia of the city.

Not for the squeamish, this is a very violent film. Creasy pulls no punches in his quest for revenge. Lives -- and fingers -- will be lost. Walken has a line in the film where he describes Washington's character: "A man can be an artist ... in anything -- food, whatever. It depends on how good he is at it. Creasy's art is death. He's about to paint his masterpiece.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice feature, i enjoy it. one little correction: it's dissenting, not descenting....

Tuesday, June 12, 2007 4:35:00 PM  
Blogger MattE. said...

Thanks, "anonymous," for pointing that out. The Blog prides itself on being a group of multifaceted journalists who can also throw down with a mean editing and proofing session. So we're a bit red-faced that we missed that. Glad you're enjoying the feature -- you keep readin' 'em, we'll keep producin' 'em. And why not get involved -- shoot me an e-mail and let me know what you'd like to review! Thanks again!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007 8:47:00 PM  

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