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You’ve Been the Light In My Life

Posted September. 15, 2004 22:05,   


Tony Scott is the kind of movie director who does excellently in school but never makes the top in contests. He produced good movies such as “The Last Boy Scout,” (1991) “Enemy of State,” (1998) and “Spy Game,” (2001), but he fails to go any further than that. His being “perfect, but just that” has been pointed out as his strength and his limit at the same time. It may be because he has a talent for providing speedy and sensual scenes and intense stories, but he hardly appeal to the emotion that exists in all of us without being stylized.

His new movie, “Man On Fire,” is one that shows a major change in Scott’s style. Celebrating his 60th birthday this year, he attempts to say that there is love (or friendship) so warm that one would sacrifice his life to protect it, even though it is not a love between a man and a woman. This feeling is different from his depiction of crazy love in “True Romance,” (1993) or the showing-off style of love from his film “Top Gun,” (1986).

John Creasy (Denzel Washington), a former assassin of the U.S. Central Information Agency, is living a life of drunk and feeling the guilt that killers have. Following his friend Rayburn (Christopher Walken), he becomes the bodyguard of a nine-year old girl, Pata (Dakota Fanning), the daughter of a Mexican businessman. Creasy gradually opens his closed mind to the girl, who is warm-hearted. One day, Creasy is attacked and shot by gunmen. When he regains his consciousness, he learns that Pata has been killed by the gunmen. Creasy starts a cruel and lonely journey of revenge, uncovering one-by-one the true facts hidden behind the crime.

“Man On Fire” delivers a background feeling, which is almost melodramatic, of the love and friendship between a bodyguard and a little girl through chic visuals that resemble commercial films and music videos. He materializes the main actors’ fluctuating emotions and tension by using a 16mm camera that gives greater mobility, by using multiple exposures of overlapped images, and by inserting captions to emphasize some words in the dialogue.

Nonetheless, Scott still displays his limits as a “model student in Hollywood.” The scene in which Creasy is looking at an alcohol bottle and the Bible with agony in his face is too shallow a symbol to show his inner complexity. Creasy, who has been shown as the epitome of the power of silence, is forced to say lines like “revenge is like a food that is good when you eat it cold.” This type of Hollywood-style one-liner breaks the consistency that Creasy’s character has maintained throughout the movie. Considering the cherished memories built up between Creasy and Pata, the way Creasy carries out his revenge is too hardcore and lacks the heart that typifies their memories.

The child actor Fanning flashes her emerald eyes in this movie, the same eyes that she showed in the movie “I am Sam.” She possesses a kind of mysterious atmosphere that looks like it will disappear as soon as we touch it.

Show start on September 24. For viewers ages 15 years or older.

Seung-Jae Lee sjda@donga.com