Patrick McGinlay's Internet Tendency

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AUGUST 3, 2004

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My main problem with Man on Fire is the enormous amount of work that went into it. Director Tony Scott had apparently read the original book by A.J Quinnell some 20 years ago, but got sidetracked polluting cinemas with shit like Top Gun and The Last Boy Scout. It boggles the mind to think that all this time, he was just building up steam to make this very painful and clichéd film.

For those that need to know, the film is about a grizzled ex-CIA operative named Creasey (Washington) who is grizzled and drinks whiskey to escape his grizzlededness but it makes him only more grizzled. He's also bearded. He gets a job protecting the family of failing Mexican businessman, Samuel Ramos (Marc Anthony). He cleans up and forgets his grizzleditude by becoming emotionally attached to his young charge, Pita (Pita?), played by the very charming Dakota Fanning. Then Pita gets kidnapped (which the hard-on-the-eyes intro makes known is a common occurrence in Mexico City) and Creasey kills everyone involved. Because, as his buddy Rayburn (Christopher Walken, looking very grey) puts it, "Creasey's art is death…and he's about to paint his masterpiece".

Yes! There are lots of big, stupid lines like that said by intense actors, intensely. The characters are so stiff and unlovable that it makes you want to go out and buy cheeseburgers, because if you have to live on a planet with people that cold, you may as well eat a lot of cheeseburgers.

That being said, the movie has 4 or 5 good bits, and they pretty much all revolve around the very short friendship of Creasey and Pita. Fanning is wise beyond her years, but not in a way that makes you want to puke. She emotes far more convincingly than the actors playing her parents (Marc Anthony and Radha Mitchell, who look like underwear models) and her moments with Washington will put a smile on your face. As for Washington - big smacks for mugging for the camera in a way that would make even Mel Gibson blush.

But beyond the mess of a script and the clichéd situations lies a bigger problem- the film looks shocking. Scott uses "stylish" camera tricks so much that the whole thing looks like one big commercial for Captain Shit's School of Lame Directional Techniques. Jump cuts, speeded up montages, light changes, color saturation, pop-up subtitles for words spoken IN ENGLISH - Scott has no shame in using every type of intrusive camera cocksuckery to divert attention away from the (bad) story. This film also goes for nearly 2 ½ hours, and has the type of ending that makes the first part of this sentence all the more painful.

So, if you don't mind a headache and a sore ass with nothing to show for it, then by all means, see Man on Fire. But keep in mind that $14 will buy you at least 6 or 7 cheeseburgers.



Dear Editor,

I have not seen MAN ON FIRE. I just wanted to argue Mr. Wajnberg's statement "that $14 will buy you at least 6 or 7 cheeseburgers".

Presumably Mr. Wajnberg is referring to McDonald's cheeseburgers, widely assumed to be the cheapest generally available cheeseburger (currently $1.75), and considered the industry standard in ingredients and packaging, if not taste.

However, my point is that while it may be possible to purchase this number of McDonald's cheeseburgers, those cheeseburgers would not necessarily be more satisfying than having watched MAN ON FIRE. One would be far better off purchasing one or two cheeseburgers with the $14, which would doubtlessly be more tasty than 6 0r 7 McDonald's cheeseburgers, or, indeed, MAN ON FIRE.

I also wanted to mention that the gherkin in McDonald's cheeseburgers is the best part and it's disgraceful the way children always throw them against the window.

David Blumenstein


MAN ON FIRE stars Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Christopher Walken, Marc Anthony & Radha Mitchell. Its rating is yet to be confirmed. In general release August 5.


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