Man on Fire

release year: 2004
genre: drama/action
viewing setting: home DVD, 1/10/2006

synopsis: Burned-out assassin takes an easier job and starts to care about life again, but ends up using his deadly skills for revenge.

impressions: This was flawed, and could have been a masterpiece. I think this movie is what happens when you mix a Charles Bronson movie with a modern drama movie. Ugh. It started out slow, then got good as the main character began to give a damn again (thanks to the little girl he was bodyguarding.) After she got kidnapped and later killed, the assassin went on a revenge spree. So far, so good...and then, without any warning, it got stupid. The MAIN BAD GUY responsible for ALL OF THE KIDNAPPINGS basically got away with it (he may not have, as revealed by an epilogue, but the point is, when the hero was out of ammo and bleeding to death, the bad guy was still home free.) And our main character went from efficient and ruthless to sloppy and caring - for a good reason, mind you - and the ending was a real let-down for me. Again, I think this is what happens when you bring serious drama into a violent revenge movie. My other problem with this movie involved its creative use of slow-motion camera slow and vague that at times, I found myself fast-forwarding the DVD so I could get back to a meaningful part of the movie. Whatever happened to the days when cameramen just let the film roll, without tampering with its speed?

something this movie has that no other movie has: Fingers-taped-to-the-steering-wheel knife torture.

acting: Denzel Washington is great as the main character, who's basically a sleeping giant that the bad guys inadvertently awaken. Christopher Walken is his ex-assassin friend who does what he can to help. Rachel Ticotin is a Spanish newswoman who does whatever she has to in order to keep the wheels of justice spinning.

final word: Worth watching, but it may not leave you as satisfied with the ending as Death Wish 3. I guess the key is for each viewer to know what kind of movie, and ending, will fulfill his or her individual craving for revenge destruction.

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