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Man On Fire

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4

*Also starring: Dakota Fanning, Marc Anthony, Radha Mitchell, Giancarlo Giannini, Mickey Rourke, Rachel Ticotin

Review by Susan Granger
2½ stars out of 4

Thanks to Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning, this predictable thriller, set in Mexico City, joins "Kill Bill, Vol. 2" and "The Punisher" in the revenge-saga box-office sweepstakes.

After a prologue explaining that, in Latin America, there are brutal kidnappings every hour and 70% of those taken do not survive, Washington plays boozy John Creasy, a burned-out former CIA operative/assassin, whose guilt has driven him to seek solace in the Bible, Linda Ronstadt's "Blue Bayou" and a bottle of Jack Daniel's. After a shifty lawyer (Mickey Rourke) advises a wealthy Mexican industrialist, Samuel Ramos (Marc Anthony), and his American trophy wife Lisa (Radha Mitchell), that they need security protection for their precocious nine year-old daughter Lupita (Dakota Fanning), an old friend and former colleague (Christopher Walken) gets Creasy the job. So when "Pita" is kidnapped, Creasy is determined to avenge the crime, ruthlessly blowing away corrupt police officers, gangsters and everyone else who gets in his way, telling a reporter (Rachel Ticotin): "I'm going to kill them all....Anybody involved in it."

Riffing off Brian Helgeland's hard-boiled script, director Tony Scott delivers a flashy orgy of torture, executions and explosions, hyped to-the-max by Paul Cameron's frenzied camera work and Christian Wagner's nerve-racking editing. The redeeming factor in this fracas is the tender relationship that's been forged between Denzel Washington and cherubic Dakota Fanning, who views her benefactor as "a big, unhappy bear." On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Man on Fire" is a slick but self-indulgent 6. At nearly 2 1/2 hours, it's much too long, considering that it's a re-make of "Man on Fire"(1987), starring Scott Glenn, that runs at least an hour shorter.

Copyright 2004 Susan Granger

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