Man on Fire (2004) is one of the very few recent films that I consider truly tough. The great Denzel Washington (Scott’s most-oft-used star) plays a mercenary looking for redemption who discovers his salvation lies in a blood-soaked hunt for a kidnapped child. Filled with Christian imagery and ideas, the movie asks the question: What happens to a man when the single talent God gives him is a talent for killing? The answers are both tragic and triumphant, and the action, story, performances, and most of all direction are all terrific.
Go take a look at the reaction to the film on Rotten Tomatoes. The critics give it a withering 39% approval. The human beings give it 89%, one short of 90%, which is almost unheard of. The critics whine prissily about the ugly violence. The people get it: this is a thoughtful, exciting, and macho tribute to the sine qua non guys, the violent guys — and the violent instincts — that uphold the best of civilization. (See my earlier similar remarks about Act of Valor.)
Tony Scott was a wonderful director of macho action films. Hollywood is diminished by his death and I personally am sorry to see him go. RIP.
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