Man on Fire appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. A few small concerns popped up, but not much, and Fire offered a generally positive presentation.
Sharpness consistently appeared crisp and detailed. At no time did I discern any signs of unintentional softness or fuzziness, as the movie always came across as well-defined and accurate. Some shots were purposefully distorted, but I didn’t count them as an issue. Moiré effects and jagged edges showed minor concerns, and some mild edge enhancement did mar the presentation at times. Print flaws were largely non-existent. Stylized grain popped up at times along with a speckle or two, but otherwise the movie seemed clean.
Fire went for a rather cool look, which meant that colors usually appeared desaturated. Nonetheless, they came across as accurate and distinct within those parameters. The hues rarely looked natural, but they weren’t supposed to generate that appearance, so I was satisfied with the sickly tint found during much of the movie. Black levels seemed to be deep and rich, while shadow detail was clear and appropriately opaque. Mostly Fire offered a strong transfer.
The DVD for Man on Fire packed both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Both seemed similar, as I discerned no substantial differences between the pair. Actually, the DTS track came across as marginally more dynamic and powerful, but this was a very small variation.
Music dominated the soundfield. The score and song snippets mixed together well to create the appropriate feelings of tension. Stereo separation was excellent, and the music spread to the surrounds neatly at times. Effects played a small role during the first half, but they were appropriately placed and they meshed together well. As Creasy went on his rampage, the second half demonstrated more active material and brought the non-musical elements of the mix to life. The surrounds bolstered those sequences nicely and gave the movie a fine sense of atmosphere.
Audio quality was excellent. Speech consistently sounded natural and distinctive, with no edginess or problems connected to intelligibility. Effects were concise and tight, and they showed no distortion or flaws. Music shined the most brightly, though, as the score and songs demonstrated fine dynamics. Highs were clean and bright, and bass response was consistently deep and firm. I felt especially impressed with the reproduction of the Nine Inch Nails’ snippets, as they offered terrific power. Fire came across as a little too unambitious in regard to its soundfield to get into “A” territory, but the high quality of its audio made it a solid “B+” that bordered on an “A-“.
If you hope that this version of Man on Fire will improve on the picture and sound quality of the original DVD, you’ll not find any change here. Both DVDs present virtually identical visuals and audio. Since the old disc looked and sounded good, I didn’t see this as a problem.
For this new two-disc “All-Access Collector’s Edition” of Man on Fire, we find all the materials from the original DVD plus plenty of new ones. I’ll connote new supplements with an asterisk, so if you fail to see that little star, it’s a repeated component.
On DVD One, we get two separate audio commentaries. The first one comes from director Tony Scott, who provides a running, screen-specific chat. Scott goes into a nice mix of topics. He discusses how he came to the project and originally wanted to make it in the early Eighties. He also talks about locations and the dangers in Mexico City, the cast and their methods, character issues, cinematographic techniques and style, deleted scenes and changes from the original tale, research, the use of subtitles, and many other issues. Scott gives us a great overview of matters and usually seems entertaining and insightful. It’s a fine commentary that comes across as useful and illuminating.
For the second commentary, we hear from actor Dakota Fanning, writer Brian Helgeland and producer Lucas Foster. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific track. Since Scott left few stones unturned during his excellent chat, we don’t get a ton of new information here. Nonetheless, it includes an interesting slant on things. Foster essentially acts as the ringleader and takes the helm for most of the commentary. He tosses out various production details like the debates with the studio about some elements, the pacing of the film’s first act, and obscure challenges like rounding up enough sheep for a particular (deleted) sequence.
Fanning seems mature beyond her years but not cloyingly or annoyingly so. She adds notes about her experiences with the other actors and crew as well as her training; she doesn’t contribute much strong material, but she comes across as likable and engaging. Helgeland mainly talks about story and character subjects. The three mesh nicely and portray a lively and fun chemistry. We get a very good feel for the production in this fine chat, though it includes too much happy talk for my liking. However, it mainly suffers by comparison with the stellar commentary from Scott, as it works well independently.
With that we move to DVD Two and its plethora of extras. The big attraction here is a documentary called *Vengeance is Mine: Reinventing Man on Fire. It runs one hour, 12 minutes and 36 seconds and mixes movie clips, behind the scenes shots, and interviews. We hear from Scott, Foster, Helgeland, Fanning, associate producer Don Ferrarone, executive producers Lance Hool and James W. Skotchdopole, production designers Benjamin Fernandez and Chris Seagers, director of photography Paul Cameron, and actors Denzel Washington, Radha Mitchell, Marc Anthony, Giancarlo Giannini, Rachel Ticotin, Mickey Rourke and Christopher Walken. The program covers the flick’s genesis and very long path to the screen, adaptation concerns and changes from the original story, the choice of Mexico as a location, research into real-life kidnapping and various case studies, training and realism, casting and characters, shooting in Mexico City and location issues, cinematography and the movie’s distinctive look, Scott’s style on the set, and general thoughts.
Mainly because Scott’s commentary is so good, inevitably some material repeats in “Vengeance”. However, this remains a terrific show. It takes its time so that it can go through all the subjects with reasonable definition. Bland praise stays at a minimum, as the content consistently comes across as honest and informative. “Vengeance” gives us a good perspective on matters and rounds out the various components well.
The 15 *Deleted Scenes fill a total of 32 minutes and 21 seconds. These include a fair amount of unnecessary exposition that leads up to Creasy’s hiring as well as some other minor character notes. Lisa and Samuel get the most extra time here. None of these add much, and given the film’s already excessive running time, they deserved excision. The “Alternate Ending” is probably the most interesting of the bunch, though we also get one major action piece in which Creasy saves Lisa’s life and a couple killings. We can watch the deleted scenes with or without commentary from Scott. He presents some production details and consistently tells us why he cut the sequences. It’s worth the time to watch the segments with his commentary activated.
Within the *Multi-Angle Scene Study we take a closer look at “Pita’s Abduction”. This lets us check out the sequence in a few ways. We can read the “Script Excerpt” or look at “Tony Scott’s Storyboards”. We also can view a “Multi-Angle Breakdown” that features four camera angles or a composite of those elements. These appear with production audio or commentary from Scott. I like this program, as it gives us an intriguing glimpse of the production. Scott’s notes flesh out the material and reveal what he tried to do with the sequence.
A few minor elements finish off the DVD. In the *Still Photo Gallery, we get 60 shots from the set. Some nice images appear, including a visit from Bill Clinton.
We find a *Music Video for Kinky’s “Oye Como Va”. This mixes some performance footage with movie clips to become a wholly mediocre piece. Finally, we get some ads. The disc presents three Trailers for Fire along with other promos for Antwone Fisher, Entrapment, Men of Honor and Transporter. Four TV Spots finish things.
A dark tale, Man on Fire is the kind of film I normally like. However, the flick’s emphasis on style over substance seems extreme, and the distracting visuals make it difficult to take at times. It manifests occasional moments of interest but not many. The DVD presents generally solid picture and audio plus a strong roster of supplements highlighted by a terrific audio commentary from the director.
Fox brings Man on Fire to DVD in a positive way, so fans will be happy, but I can’t recommend this slow and insubstantial film to new viewers. If you like the film and don’t own the prior release, I definitely recommend this “All-Access Collector’s Edition”. For those who picked up the original DVD, I still think the two-disc set is a good purchase if you really like supplements. This package really fleshes out its topics well and would make a nice addition to your collection. However, no improvements in picture and sound occur, so if bonus materials don’t matter to you, stick with the single-disc version.
To rate this film visit the original review of MAN ON FIRE