Man on Fire (2004) - All-Access Collector's Edition

Genre(s): Action / Drama / Thriller
Fox || R - 146 minutes - $26.98 || May 24, 2005
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2005-06-14


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Tony Scott
Writer(s): A.J. Quinnell (novel), Brian Helgeland (screenplay)
Cast: Denzel Washington, Christopher Walken, Dakota Fanning, Radha Mitchell, Mickey Rourke, Mark Anthony


Theatrical Release Date: April 23, 2004


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:

    Disc 1:
  • Director Commentary
  • Producer, Writer & Actress Commentary


  • Disc 2:
  • "Vengeance is Mine" Documentary
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
  • Alternate Ending
  • Multi-Angle Scene Study
  • Photo Gallery
  • Music Video
  • Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Widescreen (2.40)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Surround), French (Dolby Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

Man on Fire starts out to be original, with a great script. Then star Denzel Washington goes all Punisher on us, and things get a little more interesting. I decided not to see this in theaters mainly because I thought the story was going to be dull or predictable and although Denzel Washington rarely turns in a poor performance (despite a bad screenplay, a la Out of Time), I just didn't have much interest. So, a few months after its DVD release, I finally picked it up and was surised on how well done it really is. Now, the story does get a bit stretched, but Denzel carries it through to fruition and the young starlett Dakota Fanning easily won me over. The main problem I had was Tony Scott's style of direction, something I still can't get used to. It's decent, but his aerial shots seemed to overused.

I have now seen this three times and must say that Man on Fire has become one of my favorite movies. Is it a classic? No. But it is certainly a movie that will surprise many people with its honesty and sheer emotion that I felt in the end.

Here is Gladiator'soriginal review, I might not agree with his opinion on the film, but his review gives light on the plot and gives you a better grasp on what to expect.
"Forgiveness is between them and God, it's my job to arrange the meeting"

That quote pretty much sets the tone for most of this film. I finally saw Man on Fire and I have to say that it definitely disappointed me. The main reason it disappointed me was because I expected a lot more from a Tony Scott directed, Denzel Washington in the lead and a Brian Helgeland written film. I still liked the film, but the story wasn't developed very well at all. The film also has an inconsistent and unbalanced tone to it. The first half does a good job of developing the relationships, but the second half is just a rampage that seems only justified because of the kidnapping. You don't really feel for Denzel or any of the other characters in the film because they are not developed as well as they should be. To me, this film falls apart right after the kidnapping. The film seems to fall inside of a hole and has trouble getting out. I don't think director Tony Scott was even sure where he wanted to take his story. It also seems to me that Tony Scott spent more time trying to find new ways to throw subtitles at you rather than making a tightly directed and developed film. Some of the stylistic moments in the film worked, but in others, it just wasn't needed. Tony Scott is definitely one of my favorite directors working today, but I have to say that he didn't do a very good job with this film. At least not as good as he is capable of. I liked the stylistic things he added to Spy Game and Enemy of the State. I think they worked well in both those films. But here, it went way too over the top in terms of style. I’ll even admit that the excessive stylistic nature was even distracting in some areas of the film. Denzel gives a good performance as usual, but it is kind of sad to see one of the best actors in the world in such a routine and 80's like revenge/action film. I definitely expected more given the talent involved.

The film also doesn't show the whole kidnapping aspect very well at all. At least if you compare it to a film like Proof of Life. Proof of Life did a great job of showing both sides of the story. It showed why the people kidnapped and why they resorted to doing this. You got an "inside look" at kidnapping as a whole and the motivations of those who do it. You also understood the kidnappers as people much better. In this film, you get very little development and more of a cliché type kidnapper that you might see in an 80's B kidnapping film. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the “turning point” of the film towards the end seemed abrupt and unusual. It just didn’t fit well in the film. Man on Fire also runs about 15-20 minutes too long. A film like this should not be 2 1/2 hours long. It can be, but you should develop the story much more given that amount of time. They could have cut some of the religious aspects of the film or maybe some other aspects as well. At times the film is very interesting, but at the same time, it can be tedious as well.

A film like The Punisher can be mindless to some degree because it is based on a comic book, low budget and was made by a first time director. In Man on Fire, I didn't really connect with any of the characters or feel anything for any of them. Each character in the film looked like they were in a different film. I always felt like there was some portion of the film that was missing or that I missed. Which to me is odd because someone like Tony Scott or Brian Helgeland (who won an Oscar for adapting L.A. Confidential and recently did a great job adapting Mystic River) would be able to fill those holes much better.

Overall, I did like the film (mostly because Denzel kept it interesting). As I keep mentioning, the talent involved should have delivered a much better product than what I saw. Sure, the film has some cool action sequences, nice style for the most part, memorable quotes and Denzel is a real "badass," but I expect more when Tony Scott is directing. It was entertaining for the most part and Denzel was good, but it could and should have been a better film.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

I will say up front: This is a double-dip scheme from 20th Century Fox (which also released The Day After Tomorrow and I, Robot) so I SHOULD give a low rating because the one disc DVD was released in March of this year and THIS one in May (three month buffer). Why not at the same time? If this one wasn't ready, why not delay the one-discer? I can understand older films (or even the WB one's) being rereleased but this is rediculous. In any case, I have to be completely honest in saying that this two-disc version is actually quite good... If you already own the other one, is it worth it? If you just like the movie and could care less about features, absolutely not.

There are two commentary tracks here that were also on the original release. First, director Tony Scott, while giving tons of material and displaying his passion for this project, was a bit boring most of the time. Scott is one of these commentators who needs someone else in the room just to bounce ideas off each other just to keep it lively. If you like knowing the technical aspects, then this is for you.

Now, the second track with producer Lucas Foster (Mr. & Mrs. Smith), writer Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential) and actress Dakota Fanning. I will be frank, I can't stand child actors in any kind of interview setting. Although I think Fanning is a fantastic actress, her commentary here just annoys me, which in the end also taints my views of the commentary as a whole. What's there sounds OK, but it's not lively enough to be fun, but Foster and Helgeland do provide some information about the production, location and such. Oh, and for those of you wondering, they did have Fanning turn around and cover her ears for the violent parts...

New to this release is an excellent documentary entitled "Vengeance is Mine: Reinventing Man on Fire". This 5-part documentary goes into details about the origins of the film that dates back 20 years when Tony Scott first wanted to make it. In interviews with Tony Scott, producer Foster and screenwriter Brian Helgeland, you get a good idea about why they wanted to make the movie (this is covered in part 1 "Twenty Year Odyssey - Project Development"). Interestingly, when Helgeland was approached to adapt the novel, he initially didn't want to do it as he wanted to focus more on directing rather than writing, but he accepted the job after the possibility opened that Scott might drop out (which, of course, he didn't). One cool story was years ago, Helgeland walked into the video store Tarantino was working at and he [Helgeland] asked for a movie recommendation... the movie? Man on Fire starring Scott Glenn.

In part 2, "The Business of Kidnapping", goes into detail with the technical advisors. They talk about the dangers in Mexico as well as what it takes to be a bodyguard (with plenty of video displaying one guy's insane accuracy).

The third part, "Caught in the Crossfire", talks about the casting process. This section has more interviews with every cast member as they explain why they like the part, how they get into it, etc. There's not a whole lot of details here about the actual casting of these actors. For the part of Creasy, Scott and others explained why he was perfect for the role but they also mention that there were others on the list as well. I know that this is Hollywood but give some of the juice on who else they wanted (just for curiosity's sake as Washington was indeed excellent in the role).

Part 4 or "City of God" is about why Mexico City was chosen and the dangers that lie when shooting there. I can't remember if it was in this section, but Tony Scott tells the story of how their bodyguard got beaten up just one week before they were to start shooting (which truly brought the dangers to a sudden perspective). They talk about how scouting for locations like Pita's home which was found during an aerial search.

The final section, "Fire and Passion" is for the technical geeks out there as they go into the nitty-gritty of what cameras were used and why. To get the major style for the film (gritty/choppy), filmmakers' used a crank camera (used in the old days) where one person operates the camera while another uses a crank on the side of it at different rates, thereby giving it that unique look and feel.

Clocking in at 70 minutes, this documentary goes into some nice detail about the film, though I feel it could've been slightly better... but for what is there, it's still one of the better 'making-of' doc that I've seen in a while.

There are 15 deleted scenes including an alternate ending, which I will get to later. First, I am glad to see that these scenes are nicely presented (looks good enough to reintroduce into the film, save for some audio problems). I won't go into detail about each scene, but the highlights include a minor storyline in which Pita falls off the roof (no idea why she was there in the first place) and breaks her leg; another is a sex scene between Radha Mitchell and Mark Anthony but was cut because Scott felt it was too "rock & roll and video" (like a music video), and I agreed. The other scene of interest was another sex scene, this time between Mitchell and Washington... After getting caught in the middle of an assassination attempt, Lisa and Creasy get it on in the car (as the violence spurred some feelings) and get it on. The other scenes, while nicely lit and featuring some great performances, would have slowed the film down too much.

Now, the alternate ending...

**MAJOR SPOILERS**

If you've seen the original ending, you know that Creasy goes home on the way to the bad guy's house. Well, here the scene keeps going and we see Creasy meet "The Voice". They talk a bit about why he kidnaps and such, but then (and this is what I thought would happen originally), Creasy sets his watch and waits for the countdown before giving a vengeful and satisfying smile. The original ending was sad but it did fit, this one, while nice and pleasing, leaves you with an entirely different feeling. Personally, I think Tony Scott should've reintroduced it into the film and allowed people to choose (before the movie starts) which one they want.

**END MAJOR SPOILERS**

In the Multi-Angle Scene Study has three areas to view: Script Excerpt where you can read the script concerning the scene; Tony Scott's Storyboard is the same thing where you flip through and look at Scott's own drawings (not the best, but I guess they get the job done) and finally (and the best) is a multi-angle breakdown which gives you the option of viewing each of 4 angles separetely or all of them composed. Tony Scott provides commentary for these.

The fluff of the disc includes a photo gallery with some touching pics (like one with Fanning and her movie mother Mitchell as well as another between her and Mark Anthony), a music video by Kinky and the standard trailers and TV spots (plus a few more Fox films).



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

The disc, like the other release, offers both the Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. The sound mixes are both fine but I still found the DTS to be better in the end as the sounds of bullets, car horns and all the sounds of Mexico City come through nicely. The picture is good and considering it's Tony Scott's style, the graininess is normal.



.::OVERALL::.

This Collector's Edition of Man on Fire is good and worth buying if you don't own the initial release or if you enjoy special features. I still think it was dumb move on Fox's part to do this but it is a nice DVD to have in your collection... plus, it's a great movie to boot.