If the man is on fire, put him out. They don't. They let him burn. Denzel Washington's reputation, on a high since his Oscar triumph with Training Day, has been reduced to ashes.

The role of John Creasy, ex-Special Forces assassin-turned-alcoholic ("Will God forgive us for what we've done?"), might have emerged from Under The Volcano with the scars of a cynic. Instead, he's a bore and then he's Vin Diesel.

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The blame for this mess cannot be laid entirely on the shoulders of the lead actor. He sleepwalks through it most of the time, which is something Denzil never does, and when he wakes up and becomes a one-man vigilante, it's too late. His credibility has been shot to hell and if he wants to resurrect as an action hero, mouthing platitudes ("Revenge is a meal best served cold"), who is there left to listen?

Ridley Scott's brother Tony is capable of making fast paced edge-of-seaters (Enemy Of The State, Spy Game), despite a tendency to go all tricksy and clever-clever in the technical department. This time, he loses the plot completely and indulges every slo-mo, fast-mo, split screen, handheld, zoom-crazed moment, so that the film resembles a schizophrenic's acid trip - viscious, paranoid and out-of-the-box.

If that isn't enough, throw in Dakota Fanning, 21st century's answer to Shirley Temple, and a dog. The sweet-and-sour mix is only a burp away from the sick bag.

In Mexico City, where kidnapping occurs more frequently than in Iraq, security for the rich is essential and so the monosyllabic Creasy is hired as a bodyguard for eight-year-old Pita (Fanning). At first, he refuses to respond to her cute, smart, needy prattle, but slowly she breaks through his wall of defiant self-pity and they become soul buddies.

Of course, all this time - and it feels like forever - you are waiting for the girl to be snatched. After it happens, the family cracks up and Denzel goes Diesel. What follows is ugly, violent and visually offensive, like being flung across a car park by Hurricane Dwayne.

In amongst this chaos The Man Who Will Always Be With Us (Christopher Walken) contemplates the meyhem from his position between two nubile lovelies and remarks, "Creasy's art is death. He's about to paint his masterpiece."

Even the Turner Prize judges might reject this one.

Reviewed on: 08 Oct 2004
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An assassin goes all out for vengeance after the family he is hired to protect are attacked.
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Director: Tony Scott

Writer: Brian Helgeland, based on the novel by A J Quinnell

Starring: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Marc Anthony, Radha Mitchell, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Giannini, Rachel Ticotin, Jesus Ochoa, Mickey Rourke, Angelina Pelaez

Year: 2004

Runtime: 146 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US/Mexico

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