By Wayne William Cipriano
Rosalie and I watched a double feature the other night. She chose both movies. Neither of us had seen the first feature; she had seen the second and thought I would like it. Point Break with Keanu Reeves was the first movie, and Man On Fire with Denzel Washington was the second.
Point Break was about as action-packed and overflowing with testosterone as you could hope for in a real dude flick. It had bank robberies, surfing, killing, parties – residential and beach, sky diving – with and without parachutes, foot and car chases, automatic weapons, skin, pretty much you-name-it. But, as with all such movies, once the rush is over only the rush and not much more remains in your memory.
One thing I do remember thinking almost throughout the movie was that Keanu Reeves has to be the most wooden and stilted actor whose name I would recognize. Particularly when delivering dialog, it is as Jerry Seinfeld might say, “Most cringe-worthy.”
Point Break was still enough of a high-power trip to offset Reeves’ poor acting and we were both surprised at how much we enjoyed the movie. I’ll watch it again sometime, but I am a real movie freak.
I am tempted to say the second feature Man On Fire was very similar and totally different. But I won’t. Instead I will praise just about every part of the movie from the sometimes opulent, sometimes very gritty photography to the on-location sites that Rosalie who has spent a great deal of time in Mexico City recognized. The movie was also very long on action, much more explicit than Point Break, but that is not what I remember most.
The acting is what knocked me out! Washington’s portrayal of his character was as good as I have seen him, equaling Training Day. Radha Mitchell, who plays a distraught mother, and Christopher Walken who pumps up a small part by sitting on a couch and describing Washington’s character, were both excellent. It is fairly rare and always welcome to see this many superb performances in one film. And yet, that ain’t all.
The movie was stolen by a 10-year-old girl.
Dakota Fanning was shockingly perfect. Moving from an everyday little kid to a young lady reflecting maturity far beyond that which she could possibly have experienced, this actress just blew both of us away as we watched in hypnotic silence. I do not know what other movies she has made, and I would not be surprised if none of them hold a candle to Man On Fire, but in this movie she killed!
Most times when you hear someone this taken by a film, you go to see it and you ask, “What’s the big deal?” That won’t happen if you see Man On Fire. And I haven’t even mentioned the most interesting part of the movie.
I don’t want to spoil it for you.