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Man on Fire fizzles at best

(Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox)
Denzel Washington manages to keep his new suit in order, walk in a straight line, AND shoot at some guy in "Man on Fire," which opened Friday at No. 1 in box-office sales.
By Celeste Meiffren
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 29, 2004
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I heard somewhere that Denzel Washington has the most symmetrical face in Hollywood. I wish I heard it from Trivial Pursuit or something, but the truth is I saw a special on it on E! News live. You caught me. Regardless, in "Man on Fire," Denzel's beautiful face seems more crooked than usual. Perhaps it's the fact that he's perma-drunk, full of secrets and has a knack for torturing corrupt cops. Or maybe he's just getting old.

Old or not, I don't like seeing Denzel killing people. And I know I'm not alone. I prefer it when he's a famously innocent boxer, a feisty former slave or Malcolm X. He has a strong career backing him up. I don't understand his movie choices as of late. Is it really that hard for him to get a job in Hollywood? Have you seen "Out of Time"? Are there no other options?

The director, Tony Scott, is a wild card. He has either made fantastic movies ("True Romance") or wicked bad ones ("Beverly Hills Cop II"). There's not really a gray area when it comes to this director. It is for this reason that I found it difficult to decide if I liked "Man on Fire" or not.

The story is relatively simple. Man is hired to protect young girl. Young girl gets kidnapped. Man gets revenge. Man kills many people. Man finds redemption. The story was actually pretty interesting, although clichˇ.

Man on Fire
Overall Rating:
2 out of 5 stars

Rated R
Running Time: 146 min

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There is a strange mix of actors in this film: Christopher Walken, Mickey Rourke, Marc Anthony (has he crossed over? I Need to Know!) and Dakota Fanning. You'd think that remaking a B movie from 1987 starring Scott Glenn wouldn't have appeal to such high ranking entertainers. You'd think wrong.

The problem with the movie, however, is that it relies too much on appearing cool. Scott uses the same music in every scene where either Denzel kills someone or talks about killing someone. You know what music I'm talking about. It's in the preview we've all seen 800 times.

There are the same shots used like 20 times throughout the course of the movie as flashbacks and/or story reminders. It wasn't necessary. The other unnecessary was subtitles even when the characters were speaking English. I mean, what's that about?

Scott also uses that grainy film which is used in almost every movie about Mexico. Maybe it's the new "thing" in action movies. I don't really know.

The camera shots were going for "artsy chic," but ended up making me feel motion sickness and detest for the bastard that made me feel so. That would be Scott. Oh how I hated him. It was like "Blair Witch" all over again.

So I guess the movie wasn't good. Denzel put out a great performance, and Fanning fulfilled her usual role of looking cute and crying every now and again. Beyond that, there's not much to tell. This movie is exactly what the previews show it to be. The previews are three minutes. The movie is 2.5 hours. That's the difference.

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