Saturday, December 4, 2010

“Man on Fire” - Vestron Video of the Week: December 4, 2010


While I haven’t seen Déjà Vu and The Taking of Pelham 123 remake, I have a soft spot for the Tony Scott / Denzel Washington films I have seen. Crimson Tide is quite thrilling in no small part due to Scott’s staging and his incredible crew of actors. It is damn near perfect. Man on Fire, on the other hand, is far from perfect. It’s a big, bloated and over-long film, whose strength mainly comes from Denzel’s determined and single-minded performance. I was really looking forward to Man on Fire; I seemed to be the only person I knew who had seen the original film starring Scott Glenn.


What I didn’t remember from the couple times I saw the original as a kid was that it was actually based on a book. When I first heard about the Denzel version I thought it rather odd they would be remaking the OG film. I think they took the tactic that they were doing their own version of the novel. That was when I realized it would be a whole different approach, completely free from being beholden to the Glenn film.

In any case, the structure of the film is pretty much the same. The differences are mostly cosmetic. In the latest film the action takes place in Latin America. In the original we are in Italy for the duration of the story. Glenn plays Creasy as rough, agitated, but still functioning, even after all the horror he’s seen. It is a far cry from the suicidal Denzel who has to have the redemptive arc far before we can get into the intrigue of the plot.

The old film is an exercise in economy. It doesn’t take long for Creasy to bond with Sam in this film. He can’t. While the new film is almost 2 and half hours, the original film is a lean 90 minutes plus credits. Glenn’s natural charm really helps to expedite this change, but the little girl who plays Sam in this film (12 year-old Jade Malle) is also much warmer and much more ingratiating. As good as Fanning’s performance is in the new film, she still has the unfortunate effect many child performers have, which is their innate whininess. Malle’s performance in MOF is much more in line with Natalie Portman’s in Beautiful Girls; a little lady who comes off as far too mature for her age.

The great thing about this film’s existence is that anybody who had any reaction to the Denzel version can check this out; nay should check it out. If you didn’t like Scott’s direction (many didn’t) this is perfect for you. If you liked the film and would just like to see how somebody else told the story, hey, this is right up your alley too.

P.S. I swear a good chunk of the stuff I’ve watched on Vestron Video carried a trailer for Dream a Little Dream, the absolute worst of the Corey/Corey films. (Yes, even worse than Blown Away.) This one is no exception. However, there is also a trailer for a ridiculous movie called Amsterdamned. I have a vague notion of having seen the movie before, but can’t remember shit about it. I think I’m gonna dig around and find a copy for a future review…


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