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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Man on Fire: All-Access Collector's Edition (2004)

"Forgiveness is between them and God. It's my job to arrange the meeting."
- Creasy (Denzel Washington)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: June 16, 2005

Stars: Denzel Washington
Other Stars: Dakota Fanning, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Giannini, Radha Mitchell, Marc Anthony, Rachel Ticotin, Mickey Rourke
Director: Tony Scott

MPAA Rating: R for (language, strong violence)
Run Time: 02h:23m:58s
Release Date: May 24, 2005
UPC: 024543172628
Genre: action


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- C-A+A A

DVD Review

In this age of the DVD double-dip, it seems that no film, regardless of its critical status or overall popularity, is immune from this unfortunate trend. Multiple Adam Sandler comedies have been released multiple times on DVD, and even the recent American remake of The Grudge has shown up on DVD twice in only a couple of months' time. Now, Fox Home Video is releasing a new series of "double-dips" disguised as their new All-Access Collector's Edition series, with the first three, simultaneously released titles being 2004's I, Robot, The Day After Tomorrow, and Man on Fire, none of which were exactly blockbuster hits or critical darlings.

Man on Fire stars the venerable Denzel Washington as Creasy, a retired special ops man who is drawn back into his work by his friend, Rayburn (Christopher Walken). His first job back has him in Mexico City as the new bodyguard for Pita (Dakota Fanning), the daughter of the immensely wealthy Samuel (Mr. J-Lo himself, Marc Anthony) and Lisa (Radha Mitchell). With her parents always away on business, Pita has been through many bodyguards since she can be difficult to deal with given the attention she constantly demands.

Creasy eventually grows very close to Pita, and, during a time of heightened kidnappings in Mexico City, this little girl becomes the latest victim. Creasy is seriously injured when Pita is abducted, but he survives, and is soon on the warpath for revenge against those who abducted his charge After turning over many stones, Creasy learns the truth about Pita's fate, and the identities of those who are responsible for it.

Unfortunately, Washington's incredible talents are mostly wasted here as all he really has to do in the second half of the film is act as angry as possible, struggling to keep his immense rage from dragging his performance over the top. He does a good job of narrowly refraining from delivering the campiest performance of his career, but this is easily one of Denzel's least impressive outings. It's mostly the weak screenplay's fault, as it has one of our greatest actors appearing bored, basically just going through the motions.

Director Tony Scott is sort of a rich man's Michael Bay. Both directors are heavy on style, but Bay tends to be all style, while Scott usually at least works with a decent script. With Man on Fire, Scott seems to be emphasizing style over substance, and is at the mercy of screenwriter Brian Helgeland's meandering, sometimes pointless story. Scott's erratic camera techniques have worked well in the past (True Romance), but here it is always more of a distraction than anything else.

The brilliance of child actress Dakota Fanning is one of this picture's few bright spots. This incredible youngster performs well beyond her years, easily holding her own against the likes of Washington, Walken, and Mickey Rourke. She's a Best Actress Oscar waiting to happen, with her work here sure to be looked upon, eventually, as a huge stepping stone to an unforgettable career.

The movie isn't without its merits, as there are some very impressive, intense sequences. The most memorable involves a "suspect" whom Creasy finds and plants a bomb in, the location of which is where the proverbial sun doesn't shine, and gives this suspect five minutes to divulge information about the kidnapping,. The beauty of this scene is that we see a clock on the screen, counting down until the time is up, keeping the audience in suspense as to whether the bomb will go off, even if Creasy gets what he's looking for. It's too bad the rest of the film couldn't find its footing and be as effective.

The events that follow Pita's kidnapping are beyond cruel, but the underlying mystery as to what really happens to the girl is compelling. However, I, and I'm sure most viewers, will easily guess the key plot twists. It's possible that your enjoyment will depend on whether or not you guess the story's ending or not. It's just a shame that there are so many holes in the plot that you'll spend more time trying to figure out how the ending could have feasibly worked out than discussing how powerful and effective it, and the film as a whole, is.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: C-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: This 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is identical to the one on the single-disc initial DVD release of Man on Fire. Fortunately, that was a heck of a video transfer, so this presentation is among Fox Home Video's best. The images are as sharp as a tack, with each and every item in the frame incredibly detailed. The unique color scheme comes across quite well too, including more than accurate fleshtones and absolutely no bleeding or other blemishes. There really aren't any print flaws at all, with shadow and contrast levels always staying the course.

Image Transfer Grade: A+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanish, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Three audio tracks are available; a DTS 5.1, and Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. Forget the 2.0 if you have 5.1 capabilities, because both the Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 mixes are astonishingly good. The DTS gets the slight edge thanks to more dynamic range and more impressive and aggressive bass. The action sequences are excellent, utilizing quite a bit of directionality to handle the heavy explosions and intense sound effects. Intense dialogue is the order of the day, and it is nicely conveyed through the center channel, remaining clear at all times.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
3 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Antwone Fisher, Entrapment, Men of Honor, Transporter
4 TV Spots/Teasers
15 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
Screenplay
1 Documentaries
Storyboard
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by 1. Director Tony Scott2. Dakota Fanning, producer Lucas Foster, screenwriter Brian Helgeland
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Music Video: "Oye Como Va" by Kinky
  2. Photo Gallery
  3. Multi-Angle Breakdown: Pita's abduction sequence from four different camera angles.
Extras Review: This new "All-Access Collector's Edition" spreads the extras out over two discs, with Disc 1 housing a pair of audio commentaries. The first is by director Tony Scott, and begins with an in-depth history of how his film came to be. His well-paced speech makes for an entertaining track that really allows his affection for his work to show.

The second commentary track features producer Lucas Foster, writer Brian Helgeland, and Dakota Fanning. It's amazing just how smart Fanning is for her age, as she more than holds her own with the adult participants. This trio does a fine job covering the part they played in the making of the film.

The rest of the extras are on Disc 2, and begin with the comprehensive, 72-minute documentary called Vengeance Is Mine: Reinventing Man on Fire. This incredible short covers all you would ever want to know about the making of this Denzel vehicle, with tons of interviews with cast and crew. The best aspect of these discussions are the numerous anecdotes that come from the likes of Helgeland and Scott.

The submenu called "Pita's Abduction" contains three extras, including the still photo selections Script Excerpt and Tony Scott's Storyboards. The other feature here is a Multi-Angle Breakdown, which allows you to view this sequence from four different camera angles, with or without commentary by Tony Scott.

There's also a still Photo Gallery, a collection of Trailers for Man on Fire (three theatrical and four TV Spots) and other Fox Home Video releases, and a music video for Oye como va by Kinky.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

While Man on Fire does have its merits, it has the significance of being one of Denzel Washington's worst films, thanks to the hack work of director Tony Scott and jumbled mess of a screenplay by Brian Helgeland. Still, fans of the film would do themselves a favor by purchasing Fox's new two-disc "All-Access Collector's Edition", thanks to some nice commentary tracks, a ton of deleted scenes, and a comprehensive documentary.

 


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