April 23 - May 6, 2004 • Vol. 24 - No. 16

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Man on Fire and Boy, Did We Feel the Heat!
by The Maven and The Blonde
Film Columnists

Not since Death Wish has revenge tasted so sweet. Man on Fire is an action movie about a former government operative named Creasy, played by Denzel Washington (John Q, Training Day, Philadelphia). Creasy reluctantly agrees to become the bodyguard for a precocious ten-year-old girl Pita, played by Dakota Fanning (I am Sam and Uptown Girls). Due to the numerous kidnappings of children from wealthy families, bodyguards in Mexico City have become a necessity.

It appears that Creasy—because of personal problems and all he’s experienced through his covert work—has all but given up on life. This relationship with the child touches his soul and rekindles his spirit. Unfortunately, even Creasy’s expertise doesn’t prevent Pita from being kidnapped. We learn that Creasy is facing kidnappers aided by a conspiracy within the local government. Nothing, however, stops his desire for fierce revenge.

You will have to watch all the major twists and turns for yourself. We’re not giving anything away here.

The Blonde: This picture is Ransom meets The Bodyguard meets Proof of Life. If I wanted this much stress, worry, and tension,, I could have spent the evening with my family.

The Maven: Or mine!

The Blonde:  I feel quite comfortable stating that Denzel is one of the greatest actors of our time. He makes every character he portrays believable and gives a unique credibility to each movie he is involved in. He doesn’t seem to act at all; he is subtle, real and honest to the role—not to mention, a major hunk.

The Maven: Mmmm, he can guard my body any time. Washington’s reactions to the irrepressible Fanning are priceless.

The Blonde: Talk about chemistry between two actors. This is the real deal. This child is so natural, delicious, and a joy to watch as she lights up the screen. Pita’s mother, played by Radha Mitchell, is quite beautiful, has a great body and is a terrific actress as well. However, she really needs to remove that big mole on her face.

The Maven: I hardly noticed, but I do think there were two. I loved the mother’s response to the inept handling by the officials negotiating the ransom.

The Blonde: I also really enjoyed Tony Scott’s (Top Gun) wonderfully creative directing skills, choice of camera angles and editing. It made you feel a part of the story.

The Maven: It was refreshing to see Christopher Walken playing a nice guy and Mickey Rourke playing a sleazy attorney. I think that would be an oxymoron!

The Blonde: I am not a fan of Rourke, but he isn’t a moron!
The Maven: I’ll be nice and won’t even respond.

The Blonde: Although not an easy movie to watch because of the subject matter and violence, it was well worth it. The main characters were so likeable that they seemed to draw  you into their lives and make you care. I found myself  rooting for them. Don’t miss this film. I give it a B-.

The Maven: The first half of the picture was a love story between Creasy and Pita. The tone changes drastically the second half as he seeks unstoppable revenge. The range of emotions that this movie evokes is why I give Man on Fire an A.
The Blonde: You are so easy!
The Maven: Now isn’t that ironic. I think that would go under the “calling the kettle black” category.
The Blonde: What does that have to do with cooking?
Maven: Blonde!
Blonde: Maven!
The Blonde and the Maven: Enjoy the movie and the snacks!


The Punisher—And Punished We Were

The Punisher is a poor adaptation of the popular Marvel comic book. The story follows the revengeful character Frank Castle, played by Thomas Jane (Deep Blue Sea and Dreamcatcher), an FBI special agent and previous Delta Force Commando. Howard Saint, a criminal businessman, played by John Travolta (Pulp Fiction and Saturday Night Fever) starts Frank Castle on his journey of revenge.

During a family reunion in Puerto Rico, the villainous Howard Saint orders the massacre of Castle’s entire family. The Punisher is also presumed dead. Saint is paying back Castle for his own son’s murder. Blah, blah, blah! The twist in this shallow plot is how the Punisher manages to manipulate Saint into his own world of self-destruction.

The Blonde: The Punisher was Batman meets Rambo meets Kill Bill. It reminded me of the movie From Here to Eternity, not so much the plot, but how long I felt this movie lasted. In my opinion, this was a poorly directed (Jonathan Hensleigh) film. He made John Travolta look like “Welcome Back Kotter” was his finest work. John did look great, though. His character was a possessive, jealous, brutal, heartless, cold-blooded killer. However, he did give good jewelry!

The Maven: Give Hensleigh a break! It was his directorial debut. Did you know he co-wrote this film and also wrote Die Hard with a Vengeance and The Rock? It’s obvious that his talent lies in writing and not in directing.
The Blonde: I didn’t mind the fact that this movie was trite, bloody, violent, brutal, melodramatic, totally cheesy and with a weak plot. What did bother me was that it was lousy. Other than Castle’s wife, (Samantha Mathis) and son (Marcus Johns), the characters were so unlikable that I really didn’t care about their fates. In fact, there were several points in the movie I would have shot them myself just to get to my car quicker.

The Maven: Tell us how you really feel! I disagree with your comment of a weak plot. I thought it was well developed.

The Blonde: Yeah, the only well developed part of the whole film was when Thomas Jane took his shirt off. Nice body. With a six-pack like that, who needs punishment?

The Maven: Okay, we agree about that. I also have to agree that Travolta’s talent was wasted.

The Blonde: When I think I could have spent two productive hours going shopping at the mall and stopping for a yummy cafe latte and a crumb cake, I could kick myself.

The Maven: I’d like to kick you too! I really think you are being too harsh. This movie would appeal to younger audiences, especially to younger men.
Blonde: Like me! Don't waste your time, money, or a good bucket of popcorn. It was bad enough that I had to sit there and be punished. I give The Punisher a D, and only because I like John Travolta.

The Maven: In defense of this film, there were terrific action scenes, lots of revenge, and plenty of punishment.

The Blonde: Sounds like one of my marriages.

The Maven:  At least yours had action. Let us not forget, Thomas James is a hunk. That we can agree on. I give this picture a C.

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