True Romance director rediscovers his savage best with superior blockbuster

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STARRING Denzel Washington, Christopher Walken, Dakota Fanning, Mickey Rourke

Opens October 8, Cert 18, 146 mins

After the relative disappointment of 2001’s underwhelming Redford/Pitt collaboration Spy Game, Tony Scott roars back to form with this gut-wrenching revenge thriller. Denzel Washington stars as John Creasy, a former black ops specialist haunted by his terrible past. Creasy winds up in Mexico City, the world capital of child abduction, working as a bodyguard for 10-year-old half-American rich-kid Pita Ramos (Fanning). A friendship of sorts develops between child and guardian as Pita breaks down Creasy’s stone-faced professionalism.

Redeemed by this new-found friendship, the former CIA killer becomes a caring father figure, until Pita is abducted and Creasy is left for dead. Revived in an underground hospital and confronted with the full weight of the evolving tragedy, Creasy buys a car-load of heavy weapons and dedicates what’s left of his life to wiping everyone responsible off the face of the earth. Not so different, then, from last month’s Punisher. But God is in the details and Brian Helgeland’s taut dialogue, an A-list cast and Tony Scott’s raw technical wizardry, deliver an action drama that far outstrips its genre limitations. Man On Fire clocks in at two-and-a-half hours, which enables Scott to get under the skin of his characters, devoting a solid hour to Pita and Creasy’s awkward, tentative friendship. The emerging father/daughter dynamic, driven by 10-year-old Dakota Fanning’s mesmerically empathic performance as Pita, makes Creasy’s boundless rage in the movie’s second half utterly believable and contributes a real emotional core to the hypnotic devastation that follows. Washington creates a beautifully judged performance?full of regret and suppressed emotion in the opening scenes, before dumping his good-guy persona and tearing up the screen as a furiously lethal super-assassin who just can’t be stopped. Scott directs the whole package with visible relish, chucking in every piece of editing-suite trickery he can lay his hands on.

Man On Fire explodes with beautifully orchestrated mayhem that’s driven by a cast of fully realised characters. Never has wholesale carnage felt more dramatically justified or looked more relentlessly stylish.


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