Man On Fire


Man On Fire is an interesting film, not the average actioner, but not worthy of the massive praise being heaped upon it. Macca and I watched this, aware that many critics had said it was awesome, wonderful and redefined the action-revenge genre. It is not and does not, but there are some great lines, and the relationship between Washington and Fanning is moving.

I enjoy films that deal with relationships between adults and children, but usually only if they are in a positive attitude. Stuart’s favourite, A Perfect World, for example, is one film that I am not interested in; in Love Actually, on the other hand, I found the relationship between Liam Neeson and Thomas Sangster the most moving of the sub-stories. The developing trust and then love that occurs between Washington and Fanning is the heart of this film, even if it is obvious. Sure, you can feel the setup of the bridges built between them from before Tony Scott even starts blocking out the shots, but Fanning has such charm, she could move a rock to love her. (Not ‘The Rock’, whose preview for Walking Tall showed prior to this… a rock… it’s a metaphor).

Washington plays his role by the numbers – I’m sure many of us could do the tough guy with the heart of gold routine as well… I wonder why the critics thought he was so wonderful?? He does do some cool stuff, and I did enjoy the conflicting love and sadism he displayed on his path of revenge, but it was much less effective than in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 for example, where Uma Thurman was near-perfect. This struck me somewhat like Training Day – a Washington performance that people rave about, which doesn’t impress me much at all.

The pacing is all wrong as well, with almost an hour of slow build, including much of the Fanning-Washington material, followed by the remaining revenge flick. Coming in at almost two and a half hours, this is gratuitous in the extreme, and I noted Macca checking his watch at more than one point – surely a bad sign. I wonder what the writers and directors wanted this film to be, as they seem torn between relationship-piece and revenge-actioner. Perhaps someone could have made them show some restraint and this may have been stronger for it.

Tony Scott, what can I say? Get over yourself, and stop playing around with such stupid techniques. Jump-cuts and whip-pans do not make you cool, and they certainly don’t help us relate to your characters or scenes. LET US SEE THE ACTION, you freaking moron! To say I was underwhelmed by his poor editing and silly shot selection would be an understatement of absurd proportions. Go back to cinema school, and relearn the idea that film is a predominantly VISUAL medium, and as such, the audience needs to be able to SEE it.

This would pass the time (well, too much time actually, but I already said that), but isn’t much chop. Wait for video.

Rating: 2.0 stars
Review by Mark Lavercombe, 1st January 1970
Hoopla Factor: 2.5 stars

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