I watched Man on Fire for the second time today. I enjoyed it the first time, being that I always love a good revenge tale. At the time of the first viewing, it was when Tony Scott’s current style really overtook the movie and the story barely held together. I was in more of a minimalist/unobtrusive phase at the time, and Scott’s decisions were so in-your-face I had a hard time really enjoying the film for what it is.
That’s been rectified with today’s second viewing. I see exactly what it is and why it’s remembered so fondly and referenced so often. I watched it as reference for an upcoming project after it had been tossed about as a touchstone several times by several people, and I see what they mean. It’s about a driven dude who does what he has to do (with style) in order to get revenge. I’m always down for that, and it does many things better than most.
I see now why the film works so well. In addition to Scott’s trademark excellence and flourish, the action scenes are both well-executed and revealing about the characters involved. All of the villains remind our hero that they are “professionals,” but they forget they’re dealing with one. And he’s better than all of them. Of course, you also have Christopher Walken’s monologue about how men can be artists at anything, and Creasy’s art is death… It don’t get much better, folks.
What’s amazing is how good Denzel’s performance is. He’s always pretty good, but there’s a lot of nuance in the quiet moments that threatens to be drowned out by Scott’s aesthetic style. The ticks, the reactions, the exhale in the final scene that says everything you need to know about Creasy. My friend Brian Buccellato who loaned me the DVD told me it was his second favorite Tony Scott film, and I can finally see why it deserves its place both in Scott’s film oeuvre and in revenge picture history.
There was another version of the film made in 1987 with Scott Glenn in Creasy’s shoes, but I have not seen it. Interestingly, Scott was also in the mix to make that version but the studio went a different direction.Vodpod videos no longer available.
I’m a little tired and this made less sense (or at least was more poorly written and unnecessary) than I wanted, but I’m committed to daily blogging. Tomorrow, the blog I meant to post last Tuesday. One day I might also write about how I think Brian Helgeland is close to brilliant when adapting or co-writing with someone, and pretty horrendous when coming up with original ideas. That’ll take a bit more research to do properly, as I do respect his talent immensely.