Friday, February 02, 2007


Some years ago, in an interview, James Colburn was complimented on his performance in one of the opening scenes of The Magnificent Seven. It was a scene that helped make him a big star and the film a big picture. Colburn pooh poohed the compliment. It was his adversary in the scene, he explained, who did all the acting. All he had to do was stand tall, look strong, and react. What a generous thing for Colburn to say. But if you watch the film, he was telling the truth.

I thought about that after watching the “interrogation” scene in the car in Man on Fire. But it is not the same. Although his adversary is doing a magnificent job of acting, Denzel Washington is not just reacting, he is giving one of the top performances in the history of cinema. He is the epitome of cold, professional, fury. I thought he was even better than in Training Day which got him the Academy Award.

Unfortunately, I got the impression that the director, Tony Scott, thought Denzel Washington was stealing the picture away from him. He kept putting in flashbacks and segues to diminish the impact of the scene and to remind the audience that it was his, the director’s, film. (Hey! Look at me! Don’t look at Denzel.) The editing seemed like a flagrant ego trip. What else could explain so many idiotic cuts?

Directors get a chance to get even with studios by putting out a director’s cut on DVD. Of this movie I would like to see an actor’s cut in which the heavy handed editing is taken out.

Critics on Rotten Tomatoes only gave it a 39%. I’m sure the negativity is due to the editing.

Anyway check it out. The “interrogation” scene in the car is one of the greatest scenes in history. It ranks right up there with the Brando/Steiger scene in On the Waterfront. What a pity the director tried to ruin it.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I would like to see Denzel Washington play that character over and over, sort of like Charles Bronson in his Death Wish series. I know it won’t happen. The point is, Denzel Washington brought “tough guy” to a new level and it would be a pity to let that character go.


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