There is one kidnapping every 60 minutes in Latin America. Seventy percent of the victims do not survive. For the past 14 years, there has been one Denzel Washington movie released about every six months. I have to ask: How long will it take the bad guys to realize that King Kong ain’t got shit on Denzel?
“Man On Fire” (Regency) tells the story of John Creasy (Washington), an ex-military man, counter-terrorism agent and assassin with a drinking problem. Because of his addiction, he is unable to handle big assignments, so he takes on the smaller task of protecting Pita (Dakota Fanning), the nine-year-old daughter of a prominent Mexican businessman. Pita achieves the impossible by forming a friendship with the gruff and hard-hearted Creasy, softening up the once-bitter soldier. But it isn’t long before Pita is kidnapped during a violent shootout in which Creasy is wounded. To get back the little girl who “let him live again,” Creasy will wage a one-man war on anyone and everyone responsible.
The summer movie season has started off with an absolute bang. “Man On Fire” is everything an action fan could want. Washington is great, playing the hell-bent-on-revenge mercenary with a delicate balance of fatherly compassion for Pita and shoot-to-kill brutality toward her kidnappers. Fanning is also excellent, proving why she’s at the top of the list when it comes to child actresses. Christopher Walken steals every scene he’s in as Creasy’s sympathetic best friend and ex-partner. Director Tony Scott combines beautifully operatic shots of the Mexican landscape with smash-bang action sequences that are as gritty as they are stylish. And not to be forgotten is the stark, bluesy guitar score that complements all aspects of the film.
The film’s flaws are minor, mostly centered on trite tokens of affection in Creasy and Pita’s relationship. But even such potential clich?s as Creasy’s drinking problem are dealt with in a manner that allows them to actually add to the story. The script, by veteran action man Brian Helgeland, is packed with solid dialogue and well-placed bits of dry humor. Without a doubt, “Man On Fire” is destined to become an action classic.