> Volume 6 > Number 18


Tony Scott

Denzel Washington
Dakota Fanning
Marc Anthony
Radha Mitchell
Christopher Walken
Giancarlo Giannini

Release: 21 Apr. 04

Man on Fire


Until I watched Man on Fire, I had never fully considered the existence of right/left cycle filmmaking in modern Hollywood. But here I was, watching a film styled like a contemporary thriller but preaching vigilantism like Joe and Death Wish. Here’s a film in which the hero is shown hacking off fingers and cauterizing the stubs with a car cigarette lighter and sticks a tiny bomb up the rectum of another enemy. No, really, he’s the one we’re supposed to be rooting for.

Perhaps the biggest downfall for Man on Fire is that we never do feel much for this guy, John Creasy (Washington). He’s just another Bible-quoting badass who’s made it his career bringing misery to others for a paycheck. His closest friend likens him to an artist whose “art is death.” And Henry Fonda’s not around to ride and bring the staggering masses to their senses, reminding them that, like Brian Garfield’s novel Death Wish (bastardized into the pro-renegade script) Creasy’s style of painting is just as bad as the bad guys doing their evil.

Compare this to the Kill Bill films and the haphazard mess that Man on Fire is (and I’m just talking about the script –- the mélange of stylish pomposity killing the film is worthy of a textbook on how to make a bad movie worse) reflects on how retribution can be made into a bloody mess but remain human. Quentin Tarantino is supposedly looking at a third Kill Bill film in which Vernita Green’s daughter goes after The Bride. This couldn’t be a better premise, reminding us that retribution in the name of righteousness can destroy others in the process. An important vicious cycle has been created in Tarantino’s world. In Scott’s it’s just vicious

©2004, David Perry,, 30 April 2004