Thursday, August 17, 2006

Burn, baby, burn: kidnap inferno

Maybe I'm reviewing too many movies. Back when I started this movie thing, I only reviewed a small amount of the films I watched, but I was watching a shitload at the time. Now I watch fewer, so it's kind of easier to review them all. But I don't want to be the movie-review guy, do I? Okay, maybe I do, just a bit. But I want to be more than that, oh so much more!

Regardless, I found myself watching another bloody film, didn't I? This time it was the Minx-recommended Man On Fire, with Denzel Washington and Christopher Walken, and directed by Tony (True Romance) Scott.

The synopsis: Denzel is assigned his first job as a bodyguard in Mexico City. His charge is a little American girl (played by Dakota Fanning), the daughter of rich parents. Such families are targets for kidnappings because the ransoms can be high. Inevitably, the kid gets nabbed; and while this is happening, Denzel gets more bullets put in him than Tupac on a bad day. And thus, when Denzel recovers from his ass-whupping, we come to the essence of the story: revenge. Indeed, the tagline is "Revenge is a meal best served cold". (Of course, we Seinfeld fans know that the best revenge is living well, but that's a whole other story.) Denz sets out to put in the ground every last one of those involved in the kidnap.

Now..., before sitting down to watch the film, Wife and I made a pact. She really didn't want to watch it. She thinks that Tony Scott is useless, and that 130-odd minutes is way too much time to waste on any film he directed. So we agreed that we'd give it an hour. If she was hating it at that point, we'd turn off and I'd watch the rest alone another day. That first hour built up the rapport between Denzel and Fanning. Indeed, this build-up to the story took us up to about 75 minutes. And it was good stuff, I must say. We continued watching, but after that first 75 minutes I knew Wife was bored. She's not a shoot-em-up kind of gal; she's not mad keen on watching people having their fingers removed one at a time; she's not a fan of the action movie. But she is a woman of her word, so we kept watching.

The review: I must say I was surprised. I thought the initial build-up scenes would be the dullest bit, while we waited for the real film to start. But in the end, I found they were the most satisfying elements because we really saw some acting and some (a little) depth to the characters. Once the mayhem commenced it all became a little formulaic. That's not to say it was bad, per se, just a little ... old. It was well handled, though, by Scott. The screenplay was by LA Confidential scribe Brian Helgeland, but it was nowhere near up to that previous film's standard. The bit Wife and I were most looking forward to was the line quoted in the Time Out Film Guide, when Walken says of Denzel: "His art is death, and he's about to paint his masterpiece." In fact, I'd spent about 20 minutes before watching the film trying to deliver that line without laughing. It was nigh on impossible!

Scores on the doors: Hmm. Not wholly satisfying, but not bad. How does 66 out of 100 sound?


Blogger FOUR DINNERS said...

Sat up last night watching Ray Liotta in No Way Out. I should have gone to bed. Mad Max meets Waterworld. It was worse than Waterworld.

Borrowed Battlestar Galactica off a mate. I knew I wouldn't like it and I was right. Yawn. Starbuck a woman??? Cylons in thongs???

17 August, 2006 11:46  
Blogger mister anchovy said...

I haven't seen this one, but I would watch it just because it had Denzel and Christopher Walkin in it. Walkin is way weird in anything.

17 August, 2006 13:13  
Blogger Adam said...

Why would you talk about Criterion Robocop like that? It hurts - It hurts so bad.

Yeah, perhaps a good idea - I'll probably combine star wars, indiana jones etc. thanks!

17 August, 2006 16:15  
Blogger Cynnie said...

I LOVE this movie's my favorite..
Its just satisfying how he goes about getting revenge..
I like to think that's what I'd do if anyone ever killed a loved one of mine..
But I know I'd just cry a lot .
( ahhh i have my fantasies)

17 August, 2006 16:16  
Blogger _z. said...

Here’s where I disagree with you. Man on Fire is one of my favorite movies (thank you cynnie).
How can you resist not liking it even after hearing “Una palabra”, Carlos Varella’s song.

Dakota Fanning ranks way up high on my acting scale. At 11 years old, she sits with the biggest (That is my opinion at least), Christopher Walken was not bad, and Denzel… well he’s Denzel!

However, and even if this may sound corny, the movie kind of reminded me even for a little of “Lolita”, in a very platonic way though. And therefore I ask you:
Did brother Denzel do what he did for revenge? Or was it for love?

Dakota was acting ( or portraying an image) way over her age, I thought.

18 August, 2006 00:22  
Blogger * (asterisk) said...

4D: Sounds like you've seen some dodgy ones of late.

Mr A: It's worth watching, but I can't help but feel it could have been better. Walken rocks, as ever, but is underused, as ever.

Adam: Sorry about that!

Cynnie: I'm sure most of us would be inclined to (at least want to) go on a vengeful rampage.

_z.: Fanning was very appealing, I must say. And I say that from the perspective of really not liking child actors. I think Denzel did what he did out of love rather than revenge, yes, but I'm keen to avoid giving too much away in the reviews, such as they are.

18 August, 2006 08:26  
Blogger Candy Minx said...

I think your score of 66 out of a 10 is totally fair. Um, you've been seeing a lot of 66's lately though. We need to find you a 95 soon!

I was crying like a baby at the end of this one. I think it was love that he went on his revenge, for sure. And the love was the redemptive kind...of a burnt out soul finding a new life by having a friendship with a little pickle like the daughter.

I am a massive Tony Scott fan. I don't think he can do wrong and even if the plot was formalaic he has reached his own personal best with film making, he has it down. The film stock he uses, the style, the editing. I think he will be a major mentor for young film makers in the future, he just isn't recognized as such yet. Although, of course, Tarantino is a huige fan of his Revenge movie. Little seen, deadly cinematography and passionate story. Nothing but trouble.

I gotta find a movie you will like dude! My challenge!

18 August, 2006 20:27  

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