10 November 1998 | Helen-7
French auteur Elie Chouraqui often demonstrates his interest in dissecting film structure and conventions. Unlike "Menteurs" where Chouraqui constructs a (French) movie within a (French) movie, his earlier work "Man on Fire" deftly collides elements of European and Hollywood moviemaking by putting American actors inside the universe of Italian political thriller and making them look utterly un-American....A man is dying in some Italian military hospital. We see a body in a bag, though man's face remains obscure."That's how I died", - begins the narration, thus creating creepy and weird ambience for this otherwise formulaic story. Bodyguard Chris (Scott Glenn) is hired to protect Sam (Jade Malle), 12-year old daughter of American businessman (Jonathan Pryce). Chris doesnt't want to bond with Sam, but he can't resist her charms and reluctantly becomes her friend and mentor. These scenes are filmed with tact and delicacy; even some"Lolita-ish" touches can't spoil them. Chris' past remains a mystery, but when terrorists kidnap Sam, he will stop at nothing to save her. The direction is elegant (if a bit slow), but movie's biggest assets are its two leads: Jade Malle with her sincerity and freshness and Scott Glenn - one of the most underrated American actors. Former Marine, Glenn brings authenticity to a part where another thesp would look downright embarrassing. The bottom-line is: whose who seeks entertainment will not be disappointed in case they don't expect an "event" movie with a lot of pyrotechnics, while movie buffs will undoubtedly appreciate the chance to find out where Scorcese found his "Casino" story frame.