|Man on Fire|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tony Scott|
|Produced by||Lucas Foster|
|Screenplay by||Brian Helgeland|
|Based on||Man on Fire|
by A. J. Quinnell
|Music by||Harry Gregson-Williams|
|Edited by||Christian Wagner|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$130.3 million|
Man on Fire is a 2004 action thriller film directed by Tony Scott from a screenplay by Brian Helgeland, and based on the 1980 novel of the same name by A. J. Quinnell. The novel had previously been adapted into a feature film in 1987. In this film, Denzel Washington portrays John Creasy, a despondent, alcoholic former Special Activities Division operative/U.S. Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance officer-turned bodyguard, who goes on a revenge rampage after his charge, nine-year-old Lupita "Pita" Ramos (Dakota Fanning), is abducted in Mexico City. The supporting cast includes Christopher Walken, Radha Mitchell, Giancarlo Giannini, Marc Anthony, Rachel Ticotin and Mickey Rourke.
In 2003, former U.S. Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance officer John Creasy visits his old comrade Paul Rayburn, who runs a security firm in Mexico. Wealthy Mexico City businessman Samuel Ramos, and his American wife Lisa, hire Creasy to guard their nine-year-old daughter "Pita". Samuel only hires Creasy to satisfy the requirements for kidnap and ransom insurance (K&R).
Creasy is a burnt-out alcoholic, and tries to commit suicide one night, but the cartridge fails to fire. He distances himself from Pita, but soon begins to bond with the kind and astute girl and subsequently starts working to control his drinking, having found renewed purpose in life.
One day, when Creasy waits for Pita outside her piano lesson, a group of thugs and two uniformed Policía Judicial Federal (PJF) officers kidnap her. Creasy kills four of the kidnappers, including the PJF officers, but collapses from multiple gunshot wounds as the abductors escape with Pita. Hospitalized, Creasy is charged for murdering the policemen and is suspected in Pita's kidnapping. Miguel Manzano, the honest Director of the Agencia Federal de Investigación (AFI) fears Creasy will be killed by the PJF, and has Rayburn move him to a veterinary hospital.
The head of the kidnapping ring, dubbed the "La Voz" (The Voice) from his many ransom calls, contacts Samuel with instructions to deliver a US$10 million ransom. Samuel's attorney Jordan Kalfus and PJF Lieutenant Fuentes gather the ransom through the K&R policy, then deliver it to the kidnappers. The delivery, however, is ambushed by members of "La Hermandad" (The Brotherhood), a crime syndicate composed of PJF officers, who steal the money and kill The Voice's nephew. The Voice notifies the Ramoses that as retribution for this, Pita will now be lost to them forever.
When Creasy wakes in the veterinary hospital, and learns from Rayburn about Pita's death, he leaves to start his own investigation. Looking through her notebook for a suspicious license plate she once recorded, Lisa appears and approves of his intention to kill everyone involved. Rayburn helps Creasy purchase weapons and explosives. Journalist Mariana Guerrero, Manzano's girlfriend, convinces Manzano that they should provide logistical support.
The license plate leads Creasy to Jorge Gonzalez, the thug he saw dragging Pita away. Gonzalez proves to also be PJF, revealing (when tortured by Creasy) that he is a member of La Hermandad. He gives Creasy information on the operatives involved in the next stage of the kidnapping. Creasy tortures and kills his way up La Hermandad's chain of command until he reaches its "president", Lt. Fuentes. Fuentes confirms that his men stole the money, but that the bags were missing $7.5 million of the ransom, which was last handled by lawyer Kalfus. Creasy then kills Fuentes.
Creasy finds Kalfus dead at home, and also finds evidence linking Kalfus and Samuel to the kidnapping. When he confronts the Ramoses, Samuel confesses that he agreed to Kalfus' plan to work with The Voice to stage Pita's kidnapping. He took $5 million to pay off gambling debts inherited from his father, splitting the rest between Kalfus and the Voice. Samuel killed Kalfus, holding him responsible for bringing Fuentes in and causing Pita's death. An enraged Lisa demands that Creasy kill Samuel; Creasy instead leaves Samuel with a pistol and the misfired round, which Samuel uses to commit suicide.
Using information provided by Creasy, Manzano is able to identify the "Voice" as Daniel Sanchez, who Mariana then exposes on the front page of her newspaper. Creasy sneaks into the home of Daniel's brother, Aurelio, finding Daniel's pregnant wife and three of his children. Aurelio shoots Creasy, but Creasy tortures him and has the wife phone Daniel. Creasy threatens to kill all of Daniel's family unless he gives himself up, but Daniel surprisingly offers to exchange Pita for Creasy himself. After Daniel is able to provide confirmation that Pita is alive, Creasy agrees to the demands. Creasy has Lisa meet him at the exchange, having her hold a shotgun to Aurelio's head. Creasy and Pita embrace and briefly talk, then he makes her run to Lisa, who releases Aurelio while Creasy surrenders to the kidnappers. As Lisa and Pita drive away, Pita sees Creasy surrender to the kidnappers. Creasy succumbs to his wounds as Daniel and his men drive away with him. Manzano, knowing Pita is free and Creasy is dead, kills Daniel during his "arrest".
Tony Scott, the film's director, had tried to adapt the 1980 source novel, by A. J. Quinnell, into a film in 1983. Journalist Paul Davies theorized that movie producers likely believed that Scott, whose only directorial work was 1983's The Hunger, lacked the experience to direct this as his second film.
When a remake was first under consideration, producer Arnon Milchan (who also produced the 1987 version) looked at Michael Bay and Antoine Fuqua to direct, before asking Scott if he was still interested.
20th Century Fox wanted the film to still be set in Italy. An early draft of the script was set in Naples, with early reporting suggesting that the Mexico City filming was an odd stand in for Naples. Scott argued that if the setting would be Italy, then the film would have to be a period piece, since by the 2000s kidnappings became a rare occurrence in Italy.Mexico City became the setting of the 2004 film because Mexico City had a high kidnapping rate, and due to other reasons. As a result, the character Rika Balletto was renamed Lisa Martin Ramos, and Pinta Balletto was renamed Lupita "Pita" Ramos. Ettore Balletto became Samuel Ramos. Robert De Niro was originally offered the role of Creasy. Prior to his death, Marlon Brando was the original choice to play Rayburn.
Man On Fire opened in the U.S. on April 23, 2004 in 2,980 theaters and grossed $22,751,490 with an average of $7,634 and ranking #1 at the box office. The film's widest release was 2,986 theaters and it ended up earning $77,911,774 in North America and $52,381,940 internationally for a total of $130,293,714 worldwide, above its $70 million production budget. The film was successful in the U.S. home video market, grossing more than $123 million in DVD and VHS rentals and sales in U.S.
The film received mixed reviews from critics and has a rating of 39% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 161 reviews with an average rating of 5.2 out of 10. The consensus states "Man on Fire starts out well, but goes over the top in the violent second half." The film also has a score of 47 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 36 reviews.
Paul Davies, a journal article author, said that the critical reception to Man on Fire in the United States was "somewhat less than kind" because critics did not like the vigilantism that Creasy uses. Davies argues that "most critics missed" Creasy not taking "sadistic pleasure" in the killings since he kills to get information to get to all of the people involved in the kidnapping of Pita Ramos, and does not like harming innocent parties.
A. J. Quinnell had a favorable reception to this adaptation, mainly because the film used many of the book's lines. Quinnell said that usually screenwriters "like to leave their mark on the product." Quinnell added that even though he usually dislikes film adaptations of books, the writers "did a good job with Man On Fire and I loved the chemistry between Creasy and the girl" and "When I first heard Denzel was playing the part of Creasy I missed a couple of heartbeats but he played the part brilliantly. The film is violent and if the anger is not portrayed properly, the result can be awful." Kevin Freese of the Foreign Military Studies Office stated that "it appears that the allusion" of the fictional Sánchez brothers with the real Arizmendi brothers "escaped the comprehension of much of the audience."
In 2005, a Hindi remake of the film by director Apoorva Lakhia, called Ek Ajnabee, was released. It starred Amitabh Bachchan as John W. Creasy (renamed Suryaveer "Surya" Singh). The same year, it was also remade in Tamil language as Aanai starring Arjun Sarja.
The cut "Smiling", from the soundtrack composed by Harry Gregson-Williams, has been adopted as the theme of a number of television commercials for Omega Watches in 2012 to 2013. The soundtrack contains 20 tracks, was composed by Harry Gregson-Williams, and was released on July 27, 2004.