OK, mental noteÖno vacations in Mexico.

I donít usually do the ďcrime dramaĒ type flick unless I hear really good things about it, as with MYSTIC RIVER. With Man On Fire, directed by the great Tony Scott, I was actually tempted to see it based purely on the trailer. But by the time it actually played in theaters, I had kinda decided itíd be a rental. So here we are a few weeks later, and my buddy Chuban and I find ourselves meandering through a boring Sunday afternoon. He hadnít seen any of the current flicks, but since I had, we settled on Man On Fire.
Iím glad to report all those critical kudos are very well deserved.

Man On Fire is about an alcoholic with a military past, who winds up in Mexico as a bodyguard for a little girl with a Mexican father and American mother. We are told before hand that in Latin America, kidnapping is a terribly frequent crime, so sure enough, the little girl too is abducted. What follows is a compelling take on the classic revenge flick.
First of all, the alcoholic bodyguard is played by Denzel Washington, and he is SO good, itís almost scary. What could have been a standard role is made absolutely fascinating by the intensity put forth by Washington. Damn. I mean, everybody knows heís a brilliant actor, but really, wow.
The film is also lifted by the little girl, as played by Dakota Fanning. Iíve known she was a great actress since her breakout role as Sean Pennís daughter in I AM SAM , but here, her screen presence is mind blowing. How this little girl can convey such strength and wisdom is beyond me. Surely Brian Helgelandís adaption of the A.J. Quinnellís novel is a big part of it, but Fanningís acting really is impressive. This little girl can really be the next big thing, and sooner than most of her peers.

Dakota Fanningís parents in the film are played by Rahda Mitchell and Marc Anthony, and both do a good job. Considering his fame and popularity as a singer, Anthony can really hold his own as an actor. Mitchellís role isnít very fleshed out, but she does a nice job of keeping it interesting.
Also in the film is the always great Christopher Walken, and Giancarlo Giannini. Both do good jobs as well. But this movie belongs to Denzel Washington.
I never saw his Academy Award winning performance in Training Day, but if it was even half as good as his performance here, he surely deserved it.