I went into this one with low expectations. I had heard that Denzel Washington plays a troubled soul in Man on Fire, one who has had his fair encounters with criminal behavior. This depiction immediately took me back to Training Day, where Washington plays a corrupt cop in a role that earned him his first Best Actor Oscar. I did not like Training Day and even though Washington gives an extreme and powerful performance, I could not help thinking Man on Fire would be more of the same “bad guy” Washington. This time, though, the movie worked from start to finish, with only a few minor glitches along the way. Washington’s character, Creasy, is a man in torment. He accepts the job of guarding young Dakota Fanning’s character, Pita, as kind of a last resort before suicide or another form of self-destruction (Creasy is a rampant alcoholic in the beginning of the film). The beginning is strengthened by the touching relationship between Pita and Creasy. At first, he tries his best to keep his distance from this young girl but she softens him up and wins him over in a completely realistic way. This story could have become very trite during these scenes with Washington succumbing to Fanning’s charms without justification, but with credit to both actors, they are able to make the transition from strangers to friends natural and convincing. The second part of the movie continues to get its strength from the relationship between Creasy and Pita, but in a more dramatic and deeper way. Sure, there are parts of this film that are highly unbelievable and over-the-top. But, it’s an action movie. Most action movies provide more unbelievable entertainment that realism, whereas this is not the case here. For the most part, this film speaks true, mostly because of the relationship between and the performances by Washington and Fanning.
Posts Tagged: Denzel Washington
In the tradition of Once Upon a Time in America or even The Godfather, this film is one of the finest crime sagas I’ve ever seen. From start to finish, I was captivated by both the stories of the criminal and the cop. And, unlike some other crime films of yesterday that had “saga”-like feels to them, this one is based in reality. Yes, it’s violent, but I have a feeling that the violence here is grounded in truth. This very possibly might have been how Frank Lucas’ Harlem streets were back in the 1970s. Lucas is a black man in the white business of heroin… “white” meaning, at the time, only Italian…as in the Mob. Lucas becomes bigger than any mob figure…he owns the Harlem streets. He has Mafiosi begging to work with his organization. Enter cop and wanna-be lawyer Richie Roberts, who makes it his job bring down Lucas and his entire network. The acting really puts this movie over the top…the screenplay and direction are stellar, but the performances make it a classic!