Two of today’s most talented and charismatic screen performers are lost in an over-big, over-loud, over-heated, over-long, over-everything mess of a story about this year’s most popular movie theme, revenge.
Denzel Washington plays Creasy, a burnt-out hired gun who asks his best friend Rayburn (Christopher Walken), “Do you think we’ll ever be forgiven for what we’ve done?” Rayburn says no, and Creasy says, “I don’t either.”
So in between drinks, Creasy takes on a new job as bodyguard for a darling little blonde rich girl (Dakota Fanning as Pita). Although he insists he is not there to be her friend and does not want to talk to her, he is soon coaching her for the big swim meet and she is naming her bear after him. Those scenes are charming and touching. But then things go terribly wrong in the story and with the movie. The second half of the movie is Creasy tracking down each and every bad guy for some serious payback just like, well The Punisher, Kill Bill, Vol. 2, or Walking Tall.
The dialogue, as indicated above, is clunky and pretentious. A nun asks Creasy if he sees the hand of God in what he does and he replies that he is the sheep that got lost. Rayburn intones, “Creasy’s art is death; he’s about to paint his masterpiece.” The movie is not willing to assume that the audience can figure anything out for ourselves and pounds every point several times. A character says that Pita showed Creasy “it was all right to live again,” and another responds, “And the kidnappers took that away.”
The violence is excessive, with too many bad guys and too many drawn-out scenes of torture, especially one elaborate set-up involving a bomb inserted into a man’s body. For a guy who is supposed to be a superstar of killing, Creasy seems rather careless about things like evidence and innocent bystanders. And Scott seems rather careless about his characters. Radha Mitchell as Pita’s mother switches from scene to scene between devoted mother and irresponsible club kid. Her accent switches from scene to scene (Texas? Southern debutante? Midwest?) and sometimes within the same scene, too.
Even with all of the explosions and shootouts, the movie feels bloated and much too long at nearly two and a half hours. Director Tony Scott throws in a lot of tiresomely faddish tricked-up shots, using the subtitles as a part of the frame and putting a countdown to a time bomb in the corner of the screen. Reportedly, he shot three different endings for this movie. The other two have to be better than the one they decided to use, which takes a faltering script into the land of “I sat through all of this for that?”
Parents should know that the movie has extreme and graphic violence, including torture and attempted and actual suicide (portrayed as honorable). Children are in peril. A character has a drinking problem. Characters use strong language. The movie’s strengths include strong inter-racial friendships and respect for spiritual values.
Families who see this movie should talk about the issues of honor and redemption it raises, especially the portrayal of suicide as an honorable response to disgrace or as a heroic sacrifice. Why is it important that people in the movie keep talking about how they are professionals? And that the most important thing in life is family? Rayburn says that Creasy will “deliver more justice in a weekend than ten years of your courts and tribunals.” Is that true? What is the difference between justice and revenge? Can murder ever be a “masterpiece?”
Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy better movies with these performers, including Washington’s Glory, Fanning’s I Am Sam, and Walken’s Catch Me if You Can. Director Scott has made many much better movies, including Top Gun and True Romance. Families might also enjoy movies with similar themes, including The Bodyguard and Proof of Life.