Man on Fire 2004 Movie Scene Denzel Washington as John W. Creasy reading from a book to Dakota Fanning as Lupita

Man on Fire [2004]

I should probably start and end this movie recommendation by saying that Man on Fire is an excellent movie you should watch right now. That’s it. Each year gives us a couple of masterpieces you simply know you’re going to be watching in the years to come and this is one of them. Despite the running time of two and a half hours, Man on Fire is a gripping action thriller set in vibrant Mexico City. We will be following an ex-CIA agent in charge of protecting the daughter of a wealthy businessman against all threats. So, again we have this pseudo father/daughter relationship just like we had in Leon, for example.

Man on Fire is based on a novel of the same name by A.J. Quinnell and this is the second attempt to bring this story to the big screen. The 1987 version is quite good but nowhere near as good as this one. And just to be clear, this is not a true story. First of all, the director is Tony Scott who knows how to make a good action thriller. If you want further proof just check out Top Gun or Crimson Tide. I absolutely loved his nineties thriller Enemy of the State and charming buddy cop action thriller The Last Boy Scout along with True Romance. In the lead role, we have Denzel Washington giving another excellent performance along with young Dakota Fanning. 

When it comes to the cinematography, Man on Fire is one of the movies that first popularized the infamous Mexico filter. You’ll notice it right away as the saturation is cranked all the way up with a distinct orange/yellow haze permeating everything. It sure does look “cinematic” and “atmospheric”, I’ll give them that. Moreover, the decision to move the story from Italy to Mexico was the right one. Even the mayor of Mexico City worked with the crew to help bring attention to the problem of kidnapping in that city. It goes without saying that most of the cast had to have bodyguards with them at all times.

Hopefully the situation will get better in the coming years. I think that the war on drugs made everything worse helping criminals extend their grip on a country already struggling with corruption and economic despair. However, even in these trying times you have to recognize the resilience of ordinary Mexicans doing everything they can to live normal lives. Moving on, Man on Fire is also a sort of a character study. Our main man is a burned-out alcoholic struggling with a lot of issues. It’s like he needs the reason to go on living and the young girl he’s protecting seems to be it.

I feel like a lot of men will find his story interesting and yes, I’m going to say it, cool. It’s sort of like this arc that we don’t have in our ordinary lives and live through. This also means that the movie is not some shootout and explosion extravaganza. This is a realistic and perfectly grounded thriller featuring a few excellent action sequences. Although that constant circling of Tony Scott’s camera does get old after ninety minutes. It’s like I’m watching a CSI television show and not a bit movie with a $70 million budget.

Director: Tony Scott

Writers: A.J. Quinnell, Brian Helgeland

Cast: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Marc Anthony, Radha Mitchell, Mickey Rourke

Fun Facts: There was a lot of tension between Mickey Rourke and Denzel Washington on the set. However, it never escalated into anything physical.


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