Movie: Man on Fire

Our Rating: 2.00

How long it can take to realize you're in the company of Satan. This unspeakably vile actioner effectively impersonates a respectable drama for a good hour or so, delineating with great care the growing bond between a self-loathing former government operative (Denzel Washington) and the likably precocious tot (Dakota Fanning) he's been hired to protect. But the minute the kid is snatched by Mexican hoodlums, subtlety gets sacrificed to breathtaking sadism, with Denzel waging reckless war in the streets and shoving C-4 up guys' asses. The movie is in love with death, and even if that doesn't bother you, you won't be able to stomach the preposterous narrative and visual manipulations that director Tony Scott unleashes in this Tony Scottiest of films. Even the subtitles are over the top. Catch the first hour in some nonpaying context, mostly to see Fanning prove again that we should stop calling her "one of our finest young actresses" and pronounce her one of our finest actresses, period. Because the lesson of River Phoenix is that it's never too early to give credit where it's due.