Friday, February 04, 2005

Man on Fire - Denzel "John W Creasy" Washington

Though not a movie critic, and certainly not a timely movie watcher, I was struck by this movie in an unusual way. First, some background. The girls (wife and daughter) out for the night visiting a Clay Aiken gala in a different city. I'm alone to do what men do when they are alone. For me, it's woodworking, surfing the net, and watching "man" movies. The guy at the video store recommended this movie: "lot's of action and car chases," he said. "You'll like it." Well, I liked it. And not for the car chases. Wash. plays a former bad guy, who probably worked for the govt as a "black ops" thingie. He's a drunk, unable to love. He takes a set up job (set up by his friend, C. Walken) as a body guard for a kid in Mex. City. Her mom is American, so she's blonde. And cute. And eleven. He falls for her, satisfying the viewer. She's kidnapped and, apparently, killed. He, with his black ops skills, goes on a revenge rampage. Also very satisfying. She's returned to her mother, satisfying. Only one thing to criticize. When he's on his way to killing all the bad guys, I wish he'd become, how shall I say it? Dispensable. In other words, this character, if he had nothing to lose, literally, for the (male) viewer, would be perfect. Usually there's some sort of risk, the girlfriend is in danger, the good guys are going to get it (Magnificent 7). When DW starts to kill, and he starts to succeed, the tension builds that the cops will get him. We definitely don't want that. And so, the filmmaker would have done us a favor if DW was absolutely "cost-free" as a revenge-machine. I pondered whether what I was really asking for was cost-free wrongdoing. And I don't think so; the movie is quite emotional because he's a mess and this little girl is the one who somehow finds the key to unlock his miserable life. But, when she's (apparently) gone, no matter how complicated the plot to kidnap her, nor how corrupt the Mex. police, we are uncomfortable when he's about his bad work because (a) he's taking the law into his own hands (something frowned upon these days) and (b) he may get caught. If we don't care emotionally about him -- no "hostages to fate" -- then we can sit back and take the risks he takes and suffer the consequences. At the end, he is not rescued by the bumbling Mex police who were mere minutes away. And he should have been. But that's a secondary point. If John W. Creasy (DW's character) had disabused us of any emotional connection whatsoever, but only during the revenge part of the movie, I, for one, think it would have been a better movie. Sincerely, Movie Central Mr. Commissar, CEO

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