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His initials are J.C.

He's got scars on his hands.

He's your security and help in trouble.

And he's going to try to pay the ransom to rescue the one he cares about, the one who is being held by devils.

He keeps God's Word close by and looks heavenward searchingly.

He's called "Creezy," as in "Jeezy Creezy."

Boy, he's some kinda Christ figure, all right. The kind that carries a grenade launcher.

Denzel Washington is strong and intense here, and his bond with Dakota Fanning is sympathy-earning.

But Tony Scott's hyper-style is just out of control here. The twitchy, schizophrenic editing becomes distracting and annoying. Remember the opening credits of "Se7en"? Imagine an entire film playing out that way.

The movie aims for the lowest common denominator of the audience, constantly reminding us with visual flashbacks of who people are when their names are mentioned, and subtitling the most obvious Latin American dialogue... and THEN subtitling clear-as-day English dialogue... why? Because it looks cool, I guess. The subtitles glide across the screen, flicker, fade, twitch, cast shadows. They underline any line that the director wants to give extra punch to, as if the actors aren't good enough with their lines. When Denzel's torturing one of his captives, he shouts, "WHO'S YOUR BOSS?! WHO'S YOUR BOSS?!" and so do the subtitles. Distracting, off-putting, ridiculous. Worse is the way they keep giving us flashbacks of the big kidnapping, the screaming, the panic, as if we could forget the pivotal crisis of the film. Reminded me of 21 Grams in that way.

And speaking of torture, here's a timely story: An American barges into a foreign country, overturns law and order on his way to root out terrorists HIS way. When he finds them, he tortures them Tarantino-style (cool radio music playing and all) and then kills them. He also tortures and kills those who have "sheltered" them. Then he blows up whatever structure he found them in as he walks away. Yes, this is your Christ figure... destroying all in his path for his own vigilante justice, and then claiming the right of Christ figure. He's so Christlike, he'll torment a bad guy in front of a statue of Christ on the cross, until the exchange ends in a truly unholy fashion.

The Lisa-Gerard-clone soundtrack pushes that style over the edge. It's now been overdone, and should never be used again. "Whale Rider" was its last healthy breath. Here, it's just another element of self-importance.

It's THIS kind of film: "Kill Bill" quoted that old Klingon proverb, and got the intended laugh. This film uses it again... and it's meant in all seriousness.

Christopher Walken was the highlight of the film for me, but he mysteriously vanished from it 2/3rds of the way through and never returned. Probably because he was forced to say the line, "Creezy's art is death. He's about to paint his masterpiece."

Tony Scott, on the other hand, is not an artist. He's a stylist. And this is far from his masterpiece.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Wow, it sounds so rediculous that I just might want to see it...but more likely I will just see Kill Bill Vol. 2 again.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Remember the opening credits of "Se7en"? Imagine an entire film playing out that way.

I think that is a bad argument, Jeffrey. You've convinced me to see it for sure, and before you said that i didn't have any desire to.

-s.

Edited by stef

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Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I agree with Stef, Jeffrey. You're description makes me actually want to see it now more than I did before.

Just out of curiosity how would you compare it with the previous Brian-Hegeland-penned-revenge-flick, Payback. I kinda liked Payback. unsure.gif

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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I never saw Payback.

No, I don't mean to turn up the "cool" factor on Man on Fire. I'm just staying the hyperstylizing kept me focused on the editing process instead of the story. If you want to see 140 minutes of slick editing effects, by all means, help yourself.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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No, I don't mean to turn up the "cool" factor on Man on Fire. I'm just staying the hyperstylizing kept me focused on the editing process instead of the story. If you want to see 140 minutes of slick editing effects, by all means, help yourself.

Actually, that's pretty much what I've come to expect of Tony Scott. Lots of nifty style. Little or or no substance.

A few weeks ago I saw the Tarantino-penned True Romance, another stylish Tony Scott film with a great little performance by Walken. I enjoyed it, but can't say that it's anything great or profound. But that said, I enjoyed Enemy of the State, Spy Game and when I was younger Top Gun. He makes enjoyable, if brainless, actioners that don't piss me off nearly as much as most other Bruckheimer fare.

That said, its strange to see one brothe hit the median so often, when his older brother Ridley has made some certifiable classics (Alien, Blade Runner, etc.).

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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They're brothers? Get out. I never put that together.

FWIW, i still watch Spy Game when it's on one of the Cable channels. I mean, come on, Pitt and Redford together? They're undeniable. And Redford is great as the Matlock-type old-school agent. He is so very sly, he gets cool points for his character in that one.

But Jeffrey, good job mentioning the 140 minutes. I'm out again. I don't need to see anything that long unless somebody somewhere is calling it either a "classic," or a "masterpiece," or at least a "must see." In viewing the trailer for Man on Fire it already feels like it's a sequel to something that's gone before it.

No need.

-s.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I haven't read any comments on this thread yet (apart from Jeff's remarks at the top about Denzel's initials and the scars on his hand, which I hadn't thought of!) -- I just want to get my own thoughts out first.

The first thing that struck me about this film was the way every character treats life as a series of transactions -- giving and getting -- people accept contracts, they promise only to put in as much effort as the pay warrants, the one guy's wife gets sexy with him when he helps her to "save face" by sending their daughter back to her school, the investigative reporter has sex with the cop because they also happen to find each other useful in other ways too (and note how she makes a point of saying that they never "sleep with" each other, they just "f---"). The one relationship that appears to be free of this -- the one relationship that consists of people simply GIVING to each other -- is the one between Denzel and Dakota, though of course their friendship does not start out on that level.

I really, really liked the scene where Denzel tells Dakota he is being paid to be her bodyguard and he doesn't want to be her friend, and then the car stops at the red light and Dakota gets out, seemingly to run away, and Denzel gets out to stop her, but then he realizes that she has simply gone to the back door and plopped herself down in the back seat. As Denzel gets out of the car, you can see him kicking into "bodyguard" mode -- but then he is thwarted. And he is thwarted because the girl has decided to treat him like the mere chauffeur that he says he wants to be. And yet when we see her in the rear-view mirror, we can tell that she is upset about being cut off from him like this. Nicely done, nicely done.

How odd to see another revenge movie so soon after Kill Bill -- and once again, someone quotes the old proverb about revenge being a meal/dish best served cold. The fact that Denzel is a former expert in counter-insurgency -- an assassin, basically -- who must now protect a girl from kidnappers was especially interesting to me in light of all the news coming out of the Middle East right now: kidnappings in Iraq, the Israelis knocking off one Hamas leader after another.

I have to confess I did get a certain grim satisfaction from seeing Denzel go after the villains so methodically; it is very difficult not to believe that his "revenge" is not justified, and is indeed not "justice" somehow, especially when you consider that these villains are professional kidnappers and killers who would almost certainly go on to harm others if Denzel didn't take care of them NOW. And yet of course the taking of human life -- ANYONE'S human life -- is a very serious thing and I don't know that I could condone what Denzel does in real life.

What with the many references to the Bible and to St. Jude (patron saint of lost causes), the film certainly tries to make it look like Denzel is on God's side, or at least vice versa; there is also some funny business about a 'miracle bullet' that "always tells the truth", and that could have killed him but didn't, and the film all but tells us that this bullet is an instrument both of God's mercy and his justice. Denzel also gets to say things like, "Forgiveness is between them and God, it's my job to arrange the meeting," and he gets to show off the fact that he knows the exact chapter and verse in Romans in which Paul says that we should not be overcome with evil but overcome evil with good -- but which of these two things is he doing here, exactly, by going after the killers so ruthlessly? Is he being overcome by evil? Is he overcoming evil? Both? Neither? And what are we to do with the scene where he encourages someone to commit suicide AND tells the person in question that he will pray for him? Huh?

Anyway, I was surprised by the high degree of God-talk in this film -- but I still think the film is every bit as much a piece of boilerplate as pretty much all of Tony Scott's other films. What's more, the film's over-super-hyper-active visuals and abrupt shifts in musical tone (lots of Trent Reznor and Lisa Gerrard, mixed with repeated plays of Linda Ronstadt's 'Blue Bayou' and Debussy's 'Clair De Lune') got on my nerves very quickly. Someone get these people some Ritalin! (Owen Gleiberman once complained that Dark City, a film he disliked and I loved, was full of not "jump cuts" but, rather, "jitter cuts"; but that film was positively tranquil compared to what goes on in this flick!) Tony Scott's obsessive need to overcook everything and to shamelessly push our buttons at crucial points created an odd sense of detachment in me, which prevented me from surrendering to the film as I might have done if the d*** thing had just slowed down and let me WATCH.

And some moments in this film veer into the ridiculous. Like the scene in the trailer where Christopher Walken declares that "death" is Denzel's "art" and Denzel is about to "paint his masterpiece" (the way his eyes look away as he speaks these lines tells me he didn't care for them much, heck he might have even been embarrassed to say them), or the title card at the very end of the film, but just before the end credits, which declares, "A Special Thanks To Mexico City, A Very Special Place." That's right, after showing how an American man avenges the mostly-American daughter of a decent American woman and a shifty Mexican man from a bunch of villainous Mexican kidnappers and corrupt Mexican cops, the film suddenly decides it doesn't want us to come away thinking that Mexico is all THAT bad a place. Sure, we ram home the idea that Mexico City is the kidnapping capital of the world, and the only truly good non-American man in Mexico in the entire film is played by an Italian, but it's not like we're unconcerned about the kind of IMAGE we're projecting ...

But, that said, I love Denzel and Dakota, and I think they sell their scenes about as well as could be hoped. Even if their last scene together does reek of The Professional (which is definitely not a bad thing! but you can't help thinking it's all a bit derivative).

Now, on to the other posts in this thread ...

Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: . . . ransom . . .

Spoiler warning, perhaps?

: Boy, he's some kinda Christ figure, all right. The kind that carries a grenade launcher.

Yes, this is the Christ of Revelation, not the Christ of the Gospels.

: The Lisa-Gerard-clone soundtrack . . .

That was no clone. I saw her name in the credits.

: Tony Scott, on the other hand, is not an artist. He's a stylist.

Ooooo.

Anders wrote:

: Just out of curiosity how would you compare it with the previous Brian-Hegeland-

: penned-revenge-flick, Payback.

Hmmm. On the one hand, that film was a remake of another film. On the other hand, the last, what, third? of that film was re-written and re-shot against Helgeland's wishes -- they brought in a different director and everything -- so it's open to question how valid a comparison between the films would be.

: . . . when I was younger Top Gun.

Y'know, I was 15 or 16 when that film first came out, and I remember coming out of that theatre pissed off -- it was the first time I can remember openly venting that I wanted my money back, it was a waste of two hours, etc., etc.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Tony Scott's obsessive need to overcook everything and to shamelessly push our buttons at crucial points created an odd sense of detachment in me, which prevented me from surrendering to the film as I might have done if the d*** thing had just slowed down and let me WATCH.

Yes.

And what you said about Walken's embarrassment in saying those lines... note that I've already finished my review of the film, so when you see that I've said the same thing, I'm not stealing it from you. wink.gif

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I have to confess I did get a certain grim satisfaction from seeing Denzel go after the villains so methodically; it is very difficult not to believe that his "revenge" is not justified, and is indeed not "justice" somehow, especially when you consider that these villains are professional kidnappers and killers who would almost certainly go on to harm others if Denzel didn't take care of them NOW. And yet of course the taking of human life -- ANYONE'S human life -- is a very serious thing and I don't know that I could condone what Denzel does in real life.

(Owen Gleiberman once complained that Dark City, a film he disliked and I loved, was full of not "jump cuts" but, rather, "jitter cuts"; but that film was positively tranquil compared to what goes on in this flick!)

I don't think I've ever agreed with that guy on a movie...

I wonder what you thought of the other revenge flick this past week, the Punisher.

"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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Jeff, so noted.

Nezpop, I haven't seen The Punisher yet, but I plan to soon, since I plan to write a three-in-one review of these two films and Kill Bill.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Heh, I just realized something. I believe the last film Denzel Washington and Tony Scott worked on together was Crimson Tide, which had a fair bit of script doctoring by Quentin Tarantino, who inserted a scene in which Denzel's character talks about comic books ... so it's kinda like all three revenge movies came together in that one submarine flick.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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There's potentially an interesting review that compares/contrasts Man on Fire and Spartan too. They're both about kidnappings. They're both about U.S. covert ops agents (or former agents) hot on the trail in volatile foreign environments. They're both about corrupt governments. And where one is very cynical about American leadership, the other looks through the perspective of an American who feels justified ignoring foreign law and order and determines to bring about justice himself.

There are other general parallels too, but they'd involve spoilers, so....

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Oh, heck, spoil away ... vee haf vays of keeping spoilers unspoilt!

BTW, another weird coincidence comes to mind regarding this film. You know how it makes frequent references to Linda Ronstadt's 'Blue Bayou' and to Claude Debussy's 'Claire De Lune'? Way back in 1940, Disney commissioned an animated short based on 'Claire De Lune' for what he hoped would be a follow-up to Fantasia -- and the animated short shows a bird of some sort flying around a bayou. But by the time the animators had finished their work, it had become apparent that Fantasia had not made anywhere near enough money to justify a sequel -- so they replaced the music with a song called 'Blue Bayou' and put this cartoon in the 1946 anthology Make Mine Music. Weird, huh?

In the meantime, an interesting article in yesterday's National Post touches on how this film may or may not be reflecting the national mood:

- - -

Also evident at Man on Fire test screenings? Audiences cheer on the vigilante justice, which is dished out with fierce and often hyper-violent determination. "Is there something going on with Americans? Maybe, I don't really know," says Washington. "The reaction might be reflecting the pulse of the work, but I truly didn't think of this as an American story."

Coincidence or not, Washington admits "there seems to be something pent up in people" but stops short of claiming it's connected with the emotional aftershock of the Sept. 11 tragedy. However, the two-time Academy Award winner knows the pre-release screening reaction to his latest movie has been eye-opening for him.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Interesting opener to the National Post's review:

- - -

There is much talk of professionalism in Man on Fire. Corrupted characters lobby for absolution by pleading, "But I'm a professional" -- as though proficiency of craft trumps all considerations of humanity, morality or compassion.

It's worth noting, then, that the film itself has been assembled by a similarly slick crew of seasoned pros. . . .

- - -

And as for the film's seemingly biblical justification of revenge, there is this bit from the CanWest News Service's profile piece on the film:

- - -

In fact, Washington's conscience is clear: he had no trepidation about doing scenes like this and doesn't believe a single tear should be shed for these villains. "Look at the wicked stuff they did," he says sardonically. "They deserved it."

Furthermore, he'll invoke the Bible to explain what makes ex-CIA operative Jon Creasy tick. . . .

Director Tony Scott (Top Gun) says he wanted Washington because of his "obsessive quality and his internal darkness." But when you ask Washington about his dark side, he tries to laugh off the question. It's a familiar Washington ploy to fend off serious media questions by injecting a note of frivolity into the proceedings: it's almost as though he worries about people getting too close to him.

When he finally decides to take these questions seriously, he reveals that in shaping this character he was influenced by the Bible, by the 13th chapter of Romans -- particularly the verse about casting off "the works of darkness." He suggests that his character's campaign of mayhem and retribution is really a "spiritual" journey.

"He's a lost soul. He's got the Bible in one hand and a bottle of Jack Daniels in the other. he's done a lot of things which we never find about." . . .

Yet, at the end of the day the big reward was probing the psychology of a man haunted by what he's done in the past.

"I think he struggled with what he's good at. You know -- everybody has a job to do. There are people in Iraq on both sides of this war who do what they do for religious reasons, and they feel God is on their side.

"Some people are good at annihilating people. That's their gift. So what if that's your gift, if it's what you're good at? It's what this guy is good at, and I think somewhere in his past, it's taken its toll of him."

- - -

Re: that bit about the Bible in one hand and the bottle in the other -- what's interesting is that the particular revenge streak which dominates the second half of this film takes place after Creasy has put the bottle away, so the implication would SEEM to be that the Bible is somehow on Creasy's side. (Contrast this with, say, Unforgiven, in which drinking hard liquor is exactly what enables the Eastwood character to set aside the civilizing influences in his life and become the efficient killer that he has long been rumoured to be.)

And speaking of Eastwood, one thing both articles mention that hadn't occurred to me yet is that Man on Fire screenwriter Brian Helgeland just happens to be the same guy who wrote the anti-revenge, anti-vigilantism movie Mystic River. Weird. I wonder if Helgeland has been interviewed about this yet.

In other news, I saw The Punisher yesterday ... but that might warrant its own thread ...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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It's a familiar Washington ploy to fend off serious media questions by injecting a note of frivolity into the proceedings: it's almost as though he worries about people getting too close to him.

He's the Punisher!

"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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Hated all the twitchy, schizophrenic editing. Serious. I got all dizzy and all. I had to look away from the screen at times. I must have a bad case of vertigo or sum

Brandon

"God is so great and merciful that he does not require that we name him precisely. God is even willing to be anonymous for a time. Remember how God led the Three Wise Men from the East to Christ? The Wise Men did not know the God of Israel or Jesus. They worshipped the stars. So God used a star to lure them."--The Twelve Steps for Christians

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They're brothers?  Get out.  I never put that together.

Yup. A lot of people think they're twins, but that's not exactly true: they are triplets. Their brother, Scott, died at birth. A tragedy, since it was universally acknowledged that he was the one with the real directing talent.

Their father, George C., and grandfather, Randolph, also had connections to the movie industry, IIRC.

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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I saw the flick. As David Spade would have said in his "Hollywood Minute",

"I liked this movie the first time I saw it, when it was called Rambo " rolleyes.gif

I thought the visuals and subtitles were entertaining in a goofy over-the-top kind of way. But I felt kind of dirty after watching all that violent vigilante justice.

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SPOILERS

BBBCanada wrote:

: The thing I didn't get was at the end where Washington actually has to "give up

: his life" and he goes with these organized crime dudes to be killed. I didn't get

: that. Is this suppose to be a continuance on the "Christ figure" theme?

Quite possibly. Though I remember being not-that-surprised when it was revealed that Dakota was still alive, because it had occurred to me that simply following Denzel as he checks off all the names of all the people he's got to kill would be pretty boring and unsatisfying. This film needed something more, something a little extra, to make the ending "work". Indeed, it needed something more to make us believe, I mean REALLY believe, that Denzel had become a "good guy" through his contact with Dakota, despite all the killing that he does in the film's second half. The film began with Denzel wanting to die WITHOUT a purpose; it therefore followed that the best way to end the film would be to show him dying WITH a purpose. It would bring closure in a way that simply killing a lot of people and being the last man standing would NOT bring closure.

It's kind of like how Gladiator tried to be more than just another revenge movie by having the death of Maximus "mean" something -- but what that was, exactly, I can't remember.

Crow wrote:

: I felt kind of dirty after watching all that violent vigilante justice.

Really? I felt that way after The Punisher, but not after this one. I felt very CAUTIOUS and had lots of RESERVATIONS after this one, but I can't say I felt DIRTY.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Yes, I think I felt like crud after watching The Punisher as well. I think some guy in the row in front of me was really blood thirsty. It was kinda sickening. But I intentionally went because I

Brandon

"God is so great and merciful that he does not require that we name him precisely. God is even willing to be anonymous for a time. Remember how God led the Three Wise Men from the East to Christ? The Wise Men did not know the God of Israel or Jesus. They worshipped the stars. So God used a star to lure them."--The Twelve Steps for Christians

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Crow wrote:

: I felt kind of dirty after watching all that violent vigilante justice.

Really?  I felt that way after The Punisher, but not after this one.  I felt very CAUTIOUS and had lots of RESERVATIONS after this one, but I can't say I felt DIRTY.

I felt more uncomfortable than truly "dirty". I guess it's just the sheer magnitude of the high explosives used to take care of the "bad guys" (especially one scene in particular), that's what got me.

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