Man on Fire (2004)

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Released 18-Jan-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Trailer-The Day AfterTomorrow, I,Robot, Alien vs Predator, Dodgeball
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Tony Scott (Director)
Deleted Scenes-With Optional Director's Commentary
Web Links
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 140:08
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (61:59) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Tony Scott
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Denzel Washington
Dakota Fanning
Marc Anthony
Radha Mitchell
Christopher Walken
Giancarlo Giannini
Rachel Ticotin
Jesús Ochoa
Mickey Rourke
Angelina Peláez
Gustavo Sánchez Parra
Gero Camilo
Rosa María Hernández
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Harry Gregson-Williams
Trent Reznor
Toby Chu


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Although I am generally not that attracted to revenge movies, I have reviewed a couple lately (The Punisher and this one, Man on Fire). Having mentioned them in the same sentence, I should point out that they are very different films, although both involve themes of revenge and both are quite violent. This film is by far the better film both from a technical and story perspective as it has more to it than just being a big violent action flick. In a lot of ways this film does not follow action film conventions, and Tony Scott, the director, makes it clear in his commentary that he did not want to follow them. Of course, he has an impressive pedigree in action flicks having directed films like Crimson Tide (also starring Denzel Washington), Enemy of the State, Top Gun & Spy Game.

    Before I go too much further I should mention that this DVD contains a forced anti-piracy ad at the beginning followed by 4 trailers (which you can skip through) before reaching the menu. Those of you who hate these with a passion feel free to get angry now...

    Man on Fire is actually a remake of an Italian film from the mid 1980s which starred Scott Glenn in the Denzel Washington role. Both were based on a novel by A J Quinnell. At the time the first film was made, kidnappings were very big in Italy, which is where the novel was set. The action in this version has been moved to Mexico, which is now a place which is rife with kidnappings. The screenplay of this film was written by Brian Helgeland, famous for such Oscar-winning scripts as L.A. Confidential & Mystic River but also infamous for directing & writing films like The Sin Eater, which I also reviewed recently.

    The story follows an ex-CIA assassin, John W. Creasy (Denzel Washington) as he visits an old colleague of his, Rayburn (Christopher Walken), who now lives a life of luxury in Mexico. Creasy is haunted by the activities that he and Rayburn have been involved in during their careers and is finding it hard to cope with the guilt. Accordingly, he alternates between reading the bible and drinking vast quantities of whisky. He is a shell of his former self, losing the skills and speed required in his line of work to the bottle. Rayburn convinces him to take on a relatively easy job so that he is at least working, being the bodyguard to a young girl, Pita Ramos (Dakota Fanning). After convincing the girl's father, Samuel (Marc Anthony) and mother, Lisa (Radha Mitchell) that he is up to the job, he begins taking Pita to school and anywhere else she needs to go. Despite being a loner by nature, he slowly begins to develop a relationship with Pita, and she works hard to draw him out of his shell. One day as Creasy waits for her to finish her piano lesson, he begins to notice things which seem out of place and as she leaves the lesson, kidnappers aided by corrupt police move in, badly injuring Creasy and taking Pita. This situation draws the interest of a number of people including the family's lawyer, Jordan Kalpis (Mickey Rourke), an anti-corruption journalist, Mariana Garcia Guerrero (Rachel Ticotin) and Manzano (Giancarlo Giannini), the head of Mexico's FBI equivalent, the AFI. When Creasy finds out that Pita is dead he decides to exact bloody revenge on the people responsible, even though the path leads places he does not expect.

    There is a lot to like about this film. The acting is very good with Denzel Washington & Dakota Fanning being the standouts. Their relationship and its believability drive this film. Technically this film is fantastic and very different. The use of various types of cameras, stock and shooting techniques make for a very visually interesting film, as does the use of light and dark and colour processing of the resulting image. Another interesting visual motif is the use of on-screen titles which serve to highlight particular words or phrases used by the characters as well as show clock countdowns and other information. These generally appear in the middle of the frame and are not a subtitle stream but rather a specific part of the filmmaking technique. I personally have not seen such an approach used before. Also, thematically, the focus is on the search for redemption for Creasy rather than simple revenge (although he does get quite a bit of that as well!). The ending really shows this approach, because a different ending (such as the one shown in the deleted scenes) would have been easier to sell to the studio, however, would have reduced the effectiveness of the film.

    On the negative side, I though the film was slightly overlong at 140 minutes and could have done with some more judicious editing, especially before the kidnapping. Considering the interesting material which is in the deleted scenes, this was obviously a very difficult job and despite the length the film, it does not really outstay its welcome too much. I did struggle a little with Creasy's motivations during the ending, but I cannot really explain how without giving the ending away. Another point is that this film is a quite violent one, and some viewers may have difficulty with continuing to support the hero once they see what he is capable of. To be fair, however, we know from early on that Creasy is a violent man who has been responsible for much killing in his career. He knows that, despite his bible reading, God will not forgive him of the heinous acts he has committed and this leads to his need to try to find redemption. I suppose from that perspective the violence in the film can be justified, however, it is certainly not a film for children or the squeamish. The film deserves its MA rating.

    In summary, this is a very interesting film technically, visually and thematically but can certainly not be recommended for all audiences. It is certainly not a formulaic film despite a basic story which may make it sound like it is. Definitely worth seeing.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is excellent with no issues to report.

    The feature is presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is the original aspect ratio or very close to it.

    The picture was very clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise. The shadow detail was excellent, however some scenes were dark by artistic choice as this was part of the dark colour scheme of some scenes.

    The colour was excellent and as I mentioned in the review, colour processing was used to great effect during the film.

    There were no noticeable artefacts of any kind.

    There are subtitles in English for the hearing impaired. The English subtitles were clear, virtually exact to the spoken word and easy to read. As mentioned above titles are used throughout the film for various purposes but are not a subtitle stream.

    The layer change occurs at 61:59 and was extremely well hidden.
    

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio quality is also excellent.

    This DVD contains two audio options, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 448 Kb/s and an English DTS 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 768 Kb/s. Both soundtracks are very good but as you would expect the DTS soundtrack is the pick. It has more depth, fullness and detailed clarity than the Dolby Digital track. This is one of the best audio tracks I have reviewed and gives your home theatre a good work-out without being ostentatious.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times and there was no problem with audio sync.

    The score of this film is a combination of elements by various composers and bands. A significant portion of the original music was composed by Harry Gregson-Williams and features some great music. There are a lot of other elements involved such as Spanish music, Nine Inch Nails and the song Blue Bayou by Linda Ronstadt which serves as a bit of a theme for Creasy. From a sound quality perspective, the music was very warm and sounded wonderful. It really stood out compared to music in other films, in terms of the sound reproduction quality.

    The surround speakers were used constantly and really immersed you in the film. They were not used for huge numbers of obvious directional effects but this is more of a reflection of their constant use rather than there not being surround usage.

     The subwoofer was also used constantly, adding sinister undertones to various scenes, bass to the music and for the addition of tension as required. Once again the subwoofer use was a standout to my ears.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu included an intro, music, scenes from the film and functions for selection setup and scene options.

Commentary by Director, Tony Scott

    This is a good quality commentary featuring in depth discussion of the film's development, locations, cameras and film stock used, colour processing, casting, sets, the book, the actual state of kidnapping in Latin America, religion, on set security and related anecdotes, editing, the use of titling, the relationships between the cast members and much more. Definitely worth a listen - students of film would find this very interesting.

Deleted Scenes (31:12 total)

    Warning : SPOILERS in this section. An interesting set of deleted scenes, which are certainly more interesting than the usual. An optional commentary by the director is included which covers why scenes were cut and other ideas and sub-plots of the film. The scenes are:(SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read)

  1. Lisa asks for a Bodyguard - This is an interesting scene which adds character detail to Samuel & Lisa.
  2. Lisa & Samuel have sex - Pretty much as per the name...
  3. Lisa talks to Creasy / Creasy meets Jordan Kalfus - Doesn't add a lot, just some interplay between Creasy & Kalfus
  4. Pita prays for a dog - More interaction between Samuel and Pita
  5. Pita asks Creasy about his family - More of Pita drawing Creasy out
  6. Pita asks Creasy about his hand - More of the same
  7. Creasy saves Lisa / Sex with Lisa / Aftermath - An interesting sequence which was removed from the film in which Creasy saves Lisa during an incident aimed at someone else and she thanks him.
  8. Lisa tells Samuel that Creasy has to go - An extension of 7, removed when that was.
  9. Samuel plays piano/Creasy talks to Manzano/Lisa prays - An interesting sequence removed to avoid giving away the plot too early.
  10. Pita's ghost appears in backyard - An unnecessary scene
  11. Creasy kills kidnapper Sandri - Another violent scene removed to reduce the body count.
  12. Jordan Kalfus explains the kidnapping - Removed because it gave away too much of the plot
  13. Samuel kills Jordan - As 12
  14. Creasy talks to Marianna & Manzano - As 12,13
  15. Alternate Ending - A more Hollywood approved ending where the 'good' guy wins in the end. Interesting to see but the movie is better without it.

Weblink

    A one page advertisement for the Fox website.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There are four quite different releases of this film currently available on DVD. There is no clear best version because not one of them is comprehensive in terms of the extras. They are the Region 1 version, the Region 2 standard version, The Region 2 Special Edition and our local Region 4 release.

    The Region 1 version of this disc includes the following which is not on any of the others;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    So it really comes down to whether you want an extra commentary or the various other features on the Region 2 SE. You cannot get both on any one version. I would go for the Region 2 SE as those extras are more appealing to me than another commentary. You need to decide for yourself. All have both DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1.

Summary

    A interesting, intense and violent film about the search for redemption (and a bit of revenge). Stars Denzel Washington and a very good supporting cast. Very interesting visually.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    The disc has two worthwhile extras, however there are quite a few more available on other versions.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Thursday, February 24, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
New 2 -Disk Special Edition for Region 1 - Michael G