Man on Fire (2004 film)

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Man on Fire
Man on fireposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Tony Scott
Produced by Lucas Foster
Arnon Milchan
Tony Scott
Screenplay by Brian Helgeland
Based on Man on Fire
by A. J. Quinnell
Starring Denzel Washington
Dakota Fanning
Radha Mitchell
Christopher Walken
Marc Anthony
Giancarlo Giannini
Rachel Ticotin
Mickey Rourke
Music by Harry Gregson-Williams
Lisa Gerrard
Cinematography Paul Cameron
Edited by Christian Wagner
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date
  • April 23, 2004 (2004-04-23)
Running time
146 minutes
Country United States
United Kingdom[1]
Language English
Budget $70 million
Box office $130.3 million

Man on Fire is a 2004 British-American[1] crime 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, burnt-out former CIA Special Activities Division operative and U.S. Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance officer John Creasy (Denzel Washington) visits his old comrade Paul Rayburn (Christopher Walken), who runs a security firm in Mexico. Because of the extremely high rate of kidnappings in Mexico City for ransoms, wealthy businessman Samuel Ramos (Marc Anthony) hires Creasy through Rayburn to guard his nine-year-old daughter "Pita" (Dakota Fanning). However, Samuel is having financial problems and intends to keep Creasy on only long enough to satisfy the requirements to renew his kidnap and ransom insurance on Pita.

One night, while drinking heavily, Creasy tries to commit suicide with his pistol, but the cartridge fails to fire when he pulls the trigger. He calls Rayburn, who says that "a bullet always tells the truth." At first, Creasy distances himself from Pita, but soon becomes a surrogate father to the girl, allowing him to stop drinking and find purpose in life. Creasy and Pita begin to bond over Pita's swimming lessons, as Creasy helps Pita get better in her swim meets.

One day, as Creasy waits to escort Pita from a piano lesson, a group of gunmen try to kidnap her. As Pita leaves her lesson to meet with Creasy, Creasy fires a shot in the air and tells Pita to run. A gunfight ensues between Creasy and the kidnappers. Creasy kills four of the kidnappers, including two corrupt policemen, in a shoot out; however, Creasy is shot multiple times and collapses from his wounds, while the abductors escape with Pita. Creasy is hospitalized and arrested for the murders of the policeman and suspected in Pita's kidnapping, but is moved to a veterinary hospital by Miguel Manzano (Giancarlo Giannini), a senior agent of the Agencia Federal de Investigación (AFI), who suspects Creasy will be killed by rogue policemen in retaliation.

Meanwhile, the Ramos family agree to deliver a dead drop ransom of US$10 million per the instructions of "La Voz" ("The Voice") (Roberto Sosa), head of the kidnapping ring. Samuel's attorney Jordan Kalfus (Mickey Rourke) and police lieutenant Victor Fuentes (Jesús Ochoa) arrange for the ransom to be collected from Samuel's kidnapping insurance policy, then delivered to the kidnappers. The drop, however, is ambushed by members of "La Hermandad", a powerful crime syndicate composed of corrupt police officers, who steal the money and kill The Voice's nephew in the process. The Voice notifies the Ramoses that in retribution for this, Pita will now be lost to them forever. Pita's mother, Lisa Martin Ramos (Radha Mitchell), tries to negotiate directly with La Voz, but he informs her that it's too late. An angry Lisa demands everyone to leave her house, as Lisa and Samuel are resigned to Pita's fate.

While Creasy is recovering from the shootout, he hears from Rayburn that the ransom from Pita's kidnapping went south and Pita was killed as a result. Rayburn learns from Creasy's doctor that Creasy wounds are great and leaving now before he has healed will lead to Creasy's death. Creasy leaves the hospital anyway before fully recovering, and returns to the scene of the crime. Creasy also goes to the Ramos residence, and goes to Pita's room, looking for her notebook for any clues to lead him to the kidnappers. Lisa appears and Creasy swears to her that he will kill everyone involved in her daughter's abduction. Lisa quietly approves and Rayburn helps Creasy purchase multiple weapons, including black market firearms, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and explosives. Mariana Guerrero (Rachel Ticotin), a journalist investigating kidnappings, and Manzano also offer their support to aide Creasy.

Creasy one by one tracks down low-level operatives involved in various stages of the kidnapping, torturing each for information about other operatives, then killing them in brutal ways. Eventually, Creasy learns from Fuentes, who is revealed to be the "president" of "La Hermandad", that the bags they stole at the ransom drop contained only $2.5 million of actual currency while the rest was blank paper. Fuentes also reveals that Kalfus was in on the plan before Fuentes is killed by an explosive placed inside of him.

Creasy goes to the home of Kalfus to find him beheaded in his pool, and Creasy finds evidence of questionable financial dealings with Samuel, linking Samuel to the kidnapping. He confronts Samuel and Lisa for the truth behind the kidnapping. Samuel confesses to Creasy and Lisa that he agreed to Kalfus' plan to stage Pita's kidnapping, so he could pay off business debts he inherited from his father, keeping $5 million of the ransom for himself and splitting the rest between Kalfus and the kidnappers. He was told by Kalfus that Pita would be returned after the ransom was paid, but Fuentes, who had been promised a cut of the money by Kalfus, became greedy and betrayed him and Samuel in an attempt to take the entire ransom for himself. Samuel held Kalfus responsible for the botched drop and confesses to killing him after learning that Kalfus had known all along about Fuentes' corruption. Lisa demands that Creasy kill Samuel. Creasy instead leaves Samuel with a pistol and the misfired round, which Samuel uses to commits suicide.

Using the information provided by Creasy, The Voice's identity is revealed by Manzano to be Daniel Sánchez, who Mariana exposes on the front page of her newspaper. Creasy sneaks into the home of Sánchez's ex-wife and children, and is fatally shot by his brother Aurelio (Gero Camilo), whom Creasy then captures. Creasy finds out that he not only has The Voice's brother hostage, but his pregnant wife. Creasy calls Daniel Sánchez and threatens to kill all of his family unless he gives himself up (shooting Aurelio's fingers off with a shotgun as a warning while Sanchez listens on the phone), but Sánchez reveals that Pita is still alive, and offers her in exchange for Aurelio and Creasy. After Sanchez confirms Pita's identity (Creasy has him identify what Pita calls her teddy bear as proof), Creasy agrees to the demands. Creasy contacts Lisa to confirm that Pita is alive and to meet him at the exchange. He instructs her to hold the shotgun to Aurelio and to not let him go until Lisa has Pita. He surrenders himself to Sánchez' men, after Pita is released to him. After an embrace, Creasy instructs Pita to runs to her mother. Aurelio is then released and Creasy surrenders to the kidnappers as Lisa and Pita drive away. As Creasy drives off with the kidnappers, it is implied that Creasy, at peace with himself, succumbs to his wounds and dies. Daniel Sánchez is later shot and killed by Manzano during an AFI arrest raid.


  • Denzel Washington as John W. Creasy, mercenary, former CIA operative and Force Recon Marine officer
  • Dakota Fanning as Guadalupe "Lupita" Martin Ramos, "Pita"
  • Radha Mitchell as Lisa Martin Ramos. Lisa originates from Houston, Texas.[2] Eric Harrison of the Houston Chronicle described Lisa as an "American trophy wife with a Southern accent that seems to come and go."[3]
  • Marc Anthony as Samuel Ramos
  • Christopher Walken as Paul Rayburn, who runs a security firm in Mexico
  • Giancarlo Giannini as Miguel Manzano, director of the AFI. Tony Scott stated "Giancarlo loves women, as did this character."[4]
  • Rachel Ticotin as Mariana Garcia Guerrero, a reporter for the Diario Reforma
  • Jesús Ochoa as Victor Fuentes
  • Mickey Rourke as Jordan Kalfus, Samuel Ramos' lawyer. Kalfus and Samuel Ramos's father were best friends, and therefore Kalfus has a close relationship with Samuel. Mickey Rourke stated that Kalfus has "a responsibility to his father, to him, to look out for his well-being."[5] Therefore, Kalfus "[wants] to be there for him" when Ramos "gets his head underwater a little bit".[5]
  • Angelina Peláez as Sister Anna
  • Roberto Sosa as Daniel Rosas Sánchez,[6] "The Voice". He is based on a real kidnapper, Daniel Arizmendi López.[7]
  • Gero Camilo as Aurelio Sánchez. Based on Aurelio Arizmendi López, the brother of Daniel Arizmendi López.[8]
  • Mario Zaragoza as Jorge Ramirez


Tony Scott, the director, tried to have a version of the film made in 1983, but since it would have been his second after The Hunger, Paul Davies, a journal article author, theorized that movie producers would have believed that Scott lacked the experience to direct it. At the time Italy was still a major center of kidnapping in the world. A version was made in 1987 with Scott Glenn. Michael Bay and Antoine Fuqua were considered to direct the remake until Arnon Milchan, the producer of the 1987 film, asked Scott if he was still interested in producing a version of Man on Fire, as Milchan still owned the rights to the series.[9]

20th Century Fox wanted the film to be set in Italy.[9] An early draft of the script was set in Naples.[10] 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.[9] Mexico City became the setting of the 2004 film because Mexico City had a high kidnapping rate,[11] and due to other reasons.[9] 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.[10] Prior to his death, Marlon Brando was the original choice to play Rayburn.[12]


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.[13] 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.[14]

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."[15] The film also has a score of 47 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 36 reviews.[16]

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.[17]

A. J. Quinnell had a favorable reception to this adaptation, mainly because the film used many of the book's lines.[11] Quinnell said that usually screenwriters "like to leave their mark on the product."[18] 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."[18] 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."[7]


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).[19]


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.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Man on Fire (2004)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  2. ^ "The Making of 'Man on Fire'." (See iMDB entry) About 32:19, interview segment of Tony Scott after interview segment of Marc Anthony
  3. ^ Harrison, Eric. "Man on Fire." Houston Chronicle. April 23, 2004. Retrieved on May 15, 2014.
  4. ^ "Story Notes for Man on Fire" (Archive). AMC TV. Retrieved on May 15, 2014.
  5. ^ a b "The Making of 'Man on Fire'." About 37:50, interview segment of Mickey Rourke
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b Freese, Kevin (Foreign Military Studies Office, Fort Leavenworth, KS). "The Death Cult of the Drug Lords Mexico’s Patron Saint of Crime, Criminals, and the Dispossessed" (). Foreign Military Studies Office. Retrieved on May 15, 2014.
  8. ^ "La industria de secuestro en México es tan lucrativa que no caerá, según un experto" (Archive). Agencia EFE at La Voz (Arizona Star). October 3, 2010. Retrieved on May 15, 2014. "Su historia sirvió al director hollywoodiense Tony Scott para el filme "Man on fire", protagonizado por Denzel Washington y ambientado en el Distrito Federal. Los secuestradores se llamaron Daniel, como "el Mochaorejas", y Aurelio, como su compinche."
  9. ^ a b c d Davies, Paul. Ed: Nancy Billias. "Be not overcome by evil but overcome evil with good': The Theology of Evil in Man on Fire." Posted in Producing and Promoting Evil. Rodopi Publishers, 2010. 221. Retrieved on 30 March 2011. ISBN 90-420-2939-0, ISBN 978-90-420-2939-2.
  10. ^ a b "The Stax Report: Script Review of Man on Fire". IGN. May 8, 2003. Retrieved on January 18, 2011. "Creasy is hired to serve as a bodyguard for the Balletto family of Naples (although since the film is being shot in Mexico City perhaps the story's locale has been changed since this draft was written)." and "Rika Balletto (Mitchell), the beautiful wife of struggling but well-to-do businessman Ettore, convinces her aloof husband to hire protection for their precocious young daughter Pinta (Fanning)."
  11. ^ a b "Social and Personal Obituaries". (Archive) Times of Malta. 14 July 2005. Retrieved on 28 March 2011.
  12. ^ Man on Fire (2004) - Trivia, IMDb, retrieved Tuesday 16th September 2014.
  13. ^ "Man on Fire (2004)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved May 31, 2010. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Man on Fire". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved March 19, 2011. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Davies, Paul. Ed: Nancy Billias. "Be not overcome by evil but overcome evil with good': The Theology of Evil in Man on Fire." Posted in Producing and Promoting Evil. Rodopi Publishers, 2010. 222. Retrieved on 30 March 2011. ISBN 90-420-2939-0, ISBN 978-90-420-2939-2.
  18. ^ a b Massa, Ariadne. "Gozo based author sees first book become a bestseller" (Archive). The Times of Malta. 10 November 2004. Retrieved on 28 March 2012.
  19. ^ Vijayan, Vipin. "Amitabh rocks in Ek Ajnabee". Retrieved on March 27, 2012.
  20. ^ "Man on Fire 2004 Soundtrack". AllMusic. 21 November 2016. Retrieved 21 November 2016. 

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