Over the years, Denzel Washington has tackled every fathomable emotion in film. The man has an innate gift to flip a switch and go from a smiling chum to a raving lunatic in the blink of an eye. It wasn’t until Tony Scott’s 2004 thriller Man on Fire when Denzel was required to express his full range and push his skills through the eyes of one solitary and extremely well written character.
Denzel plays Creasy, an ex-special ops agent dependent on the bottle to get to the next day, and his friend (Christopher Walken) for work. Walken, a mere shadow of the animated villain he played in The Rundown, sets up Creasy with a family seeking protection for their young daughter, Pita (Dakota Fanning), in response to increasing kidnappings of wealthy international children in Mexico. Before long, an unexpected and believable friendship develops between Pita and Creasy, leading to the necessary kidnapping of Pita and subsequent quest for vengeance by a now enraged Creasy.
Scott’s build-up of Creasy and Pita’s relationship, while necessary, prolongs the anticipated “fire” Creasy will unleash in the final act. Not many young actresses can hold their own with Denzel, yet Dakota never misses a beat and is actually sorely missed while absent after her kidnapping. An earlier kidnapping and view into Pita’s ordeal with her kidnappers might have stressed the importance of Creasy’s self-prescribed mission, and opened the door for Creasy to send more criminals to answer to God.
While it’s unfortunate Man on Fire paints Mexico as a haven for drug lords, thievery, and corruption, there’s an element of truth to the complex underground kidnapping rings that’s difficult to rinse out, especially for parents. How far will you go for your child is a question any parent hopes to never answer. Tony Scott’s research, dynamic filmmaking skills and ability to elicit strong performances from his cast provides all the answers and entertainment you’ll ever need on the subject.
Fox presents Man on Fire in a widescreen 2.35:1 AVC MPEG-4 1080p encoded transfer most likely from the same master used for the previous two standard DVD releases. The similarities end there as the bump to 1080p is far more compelling than its 480p predecessor. Scott’s over saturated color palette and intentional grain are faithfully represented, with only a smattering of excessive grain and flatness bothering a small handful of darker shot scenes.
DTS helped bring the action in Man on Fire to life on the standard DVD and does so again on Blu-ray Disc in a DTS-HD 7.1 lossless mix. Where gunfire and explosions are capable of taking over the room, the sublties of conversation are wonderfully handled and expressed. Only when the two come together are voices susceptible to being drowned out.
An outstanding high-def package comes to a screeching halt when searching for Man on Fire’s special features, or lack thereof. The two audio commentaries, including Dakota Fanning, and featurette found on the first DVD release are not present. Neither are the documentaries, deleted scenes, galleries and other goodies found on the collector’s edition DVD. All Fox chose to include are a quartet of Blu-ray Disc trailers for Man on Fire, Entrapment, The Sentinel, and Mr. & Mrs. Smith.
Given the lack of special features, it’s hard to imagine a more robust appearance of Man on Fire will surface on Blu-ray Disc at some point in the future. For the time being, this disc and second-to-none high-def presentation makes for a great rental, or even keeper for Denzel or Dakota fans.
– Dan Bradley