A wave of kidnappings has swept through Mexico, feeding a growing sense of panic among its wealthier citizens, especially parents. In one six-day period, there were twenty-four abductions, leading many to hire bodyguards for their children. Into this world enters John Creasy, a burned-out ex-CIA operative/assassin, who has given up on life. Creasy's friend Rayburn brings him to Mexico City to be a bodyguard to nine-year-old Pita Ramos, daughter of industrialist Samuel Ramos and his wife Lisa. Creasy is not interested in being a bodyguard, especially to a youngster, but for lack of something better to do, he accepts the assignment. Creasy barely tolerates the precocious child and her pestering questions about him and his life. But slowly, she chips away at his seemingly impenetrable exterior, his defenses drop, and he opens up to her. Creasy's new-found purpose in life is shattered when Pita is kidnapped. Despite being mortally wounded during the kidnapping, he vows to kill anyone involved in or profiting from the kidnapping. And no one can stop him.
This ghastly and idiotic revenge story begins as an adventure in extreme babysitting. Denzel Washington, a former top-secret, special-ops something or another, drifts down to Mexico in a depressive alcoholic fog and finds work as a bodyguard. His charge, Pita (Dakota Fanning, and shouldn't that be Tortilla?), gets him off the sauce and gives him a reason to live. Or, rather, to kill, since once she is kidnapped he draws on all his old professional skills to wage a one-man war against the kidnappers terrorizing the city. "Kill them all!" hisses Pita's mother (Radha Mitchell), and that pretty much sums it up. Tony Scott's annoying camera tricks and souped-up effects — including English subtitles for English dialogue — are perhaps meant to make the movie look better than it is. But they only make it worse — the worst movie of the year so far. — A. O. Scott
2004-04-21 | A. O. Scott | Read the New York Times Review of Man on Fire