Release: 21 Apr. 04
|Man on Fire
BY: DAVID PERRY
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.