Friday, March 05, 2004

Man On Fire: April 23,2004 - Large

There is something magical about Denzel Washington. He can play damned characters better than anyone. He doesn't need gritty voice-overs(though he can do them well) he doesn't need strung-out make-up(though he's been given it in the past). All he needs is a story, and a character and a voice. In Fallen, he was the voice of ultimate evil, and the personification of struggle against it. In Training Day he was so much the very idea of rogue police he went past the cliche, a perfect example of the saying that too much is too much, but way too much is just right.

He can portray implacable characters, people who can't be stopped, not because they're so good, or so lucky, or so powerful, but simply because they won't stop. Which is why this movie will be great, no matter how bad it looks, or cheezy the story, or anything. Because Denzel is that guy, for a moment, in every movie. And now there's a whole movie about it.

I love that kind of character. Corwin, arguably my favorite fictional creation of all time, says of himself, that he is just a meddler, skilled in the minor art of survival. That's his magic. No matter what happens, and how the world falls around him, he just keeps going. He is the archetype of stamina. Not brute physical stamina(though he has it) but character stamina, a kind of unbending arrow towards his goals and destiny. That's the kind of person, the kinds of decisions I like to view myself as. No deflection, not even by self. It's characteristic of these kinds of characters to end in prisons of their own making.

This movie is kind of like that. Hopefully they'll make it explicit. Denzel Washington is trapped in the kind of person he has become. The little girl seems to represent his chance to change. And when it's stolen, he reverts to the base of his past, he sinks to the very edge of the blackest things he's done before, to retrieve his hope of being a better person. It's a kind of logic that only makes sense to someone who really feels trapped by who they are. It's a kind of story I like too much.

I'll be seeing this as soon as it comes out.

You will recognize Tony Scott, director of previous Denzel masterpiece "Crimson Tide", vampire classic 'The Hunger'(and the first episode of the series by the same name), Days of Thunder, Enemy of the State, and the absolutely perfect short film "Beat the Devil", underwritten by BMW. (beat the devil can be viewed here at

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