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 and
Cinematography Paul Cameron
Edited by Christian Wagner
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • April 23, 2004 (2004-04-23)
Running time
146 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $70 million
Box office $130.3 million

Man on Fire is a 2004 American crime thriller film and the second adaptation of A. J. Quinnell's 1980 novel of the same name; the first film based on the novel was released in 1987. The 2004 film adaptation was directed by Tony Scott, from a screenplay written by Brian Helgeland.

Man on Fire stars Denzel Washington as John Creasy, a despondent, alcoholic former CIA operative/U.S. Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance officer turned mercenary and 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 ex-CIA(SAD/SOG) Paramilitary operations officer and former 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). Samuel however is having money problems, and intends to keep Creasy on only long enough to satisfy the requirements to renew his kidnap and ransom insurance on Pita. Creasy suffers from alcoholism, depression and severe guilt as a result of his former black ops work. Drinking heavily, Creasy attempts suicide with his pistol, but the bullet 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 he becomes a surrogate father to the girl, allowing him to stop drinking and find a purpose in his life.

While Creasy is escorting Pita to her piano lesson, a group of gunmen try to kidnap her. Creasy kills four of the kidnappers, including two corrupt policemen, in a shoot out, but he is shot multiple times and collapses from his wounds, and the abductors escape with Pita. Creasy is hospitalized but is moved to a veterinary hospital by Miguel Manzano (Giancarlo Giannini), an agent of the Agencia Federal de Investigación (AFI), who suspects Creasy will be killed by rogue police. Meanwhile, the Ramoses agree to deliver a dead drop ransom of US$10 million per the instructions of "La Voz" ("The Voice") (Roberto Sosa), the mastermind behind the kidnapping ring. Samuel's attorney, Jordan Kalfus (Mickey Rourke), arranges for the ransom money 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 Pita will be killed in retribution.

Creasy leaves the hospital before fully recovering, swearing to Pita's mother Lisa (Radha Mitchell) that he will kill everyone involved in her daughter's abduction. Rayburn helps Creasy purchase black market firearms, a rocket-propelled grenade and explosives. Mariana Guerrero (Rachel Ticotin), a journalist investigating kidnappings, and Manzano also offer their support. Creasy 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 learning from 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.

Creasy finds Kalfus murdered and then finds evidence of his questionable financial dealings with Samuel. 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 by fraudulently collecting the insurance money. He planned to keep $5 million for himself and split the rest between Kalfus and the kidnappers. He was told that Pita would watch cartoons for a couple days and return after the ransom was paid. Samuel confesses to killing Kalfus, and Creasy leaves Samuel with a pistol and the misfired round, which works for Samuel when he 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 shot by his brother Aurelio (Gero Camilo), whom Creasy then captures. Creasy calls Daniel Sánchez and threatens to kill all of his family unless he gives himself up, but Sánchez reveals that Pita is still alive, and offers her in exchange for Aurelio and Creasy. Creasy and Pita share a tearful goodbye before he surrenders himself to Sánchez' men, as Pita is released into her mother's arms. Creasy succumbs peacefully from his gunshot injuries. Daniel Sánchez is later killed by Manzano during an AFI arrest raid.


  • Denzel Washington as John W. Creasy, a former CIA operative and former Force Recon Marine officer and now a mercenary
  • Dakota Fanning as Guadalupe "Lupita" Martin Ramos, "Pita"
  • Radha Mitchell as Lisa Martin Ramos. Lisa originates from Houston, Texas.[1] Eric Harrison of the Houston Chronicle described Lisa as an "American trophy wife with a Southern accent that seems to come and go."[2]
  • Marc Anthony as Samuel Ramos
  • Christopher Walken as Paul Rayburn, an old friend of Creasy from the CIA, 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. The role was offered to Ricardo Darín but he didn't accept the role."[3]
  • 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."[4] Therefore, Kalfus "[wants] to be there for him" when Ramos "gets his head underwater a little bit".[4]
  • Angelina Peláez as Sister Anna
  • Roberto Sosa as Daniel Rosas Sánchez,[5] "The Voice". He is based on a real kidnapper, Daniel Arizmendi López. Just like the real Arizmendi López, "La Voz" believes in Santa Muerte.[6]
  • Gero Camilo as Aurelio Sánchez. He is based on Aurelio Arizmendi López, the brother of Daniel Arizmendi López.[7]
  • 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.[8]

20th Century Fox wanted the film to be set in Italy.[8] An early draft of the script was set in Naples.[9] 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.[8] Mexico City became the setting of the 2004 film because Mexico City had a high kidnapping rate,[10] and due to other reasons.[8] 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.[9] Prior to his death, Marlon Brando was the original choice to play Rayburn.[11]


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 films 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.[12] 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.[13]

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

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.[16]

A. J. Quinnell had a favorable reception to this adaptation, mainly because the film used many of the book's lines.[10] Quinnell said that usually screenwriters "like to leave their mark on the product."[17] 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."[17] 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."[6]


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).[18]


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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Making of 'Man on Fire'." (See iMDB entry) About 32:19, interview segment of Tony Scott after interview segment of Marc Anthony
  2. ^ Harrison, Eric. "Man on Fire." Houston Chronicle. April 23, 2004. Retrieved on May 15, 2014.
  3. ^ "Story Notes for Man on Fire" (Archive). AMC TV. Retrieved on May 15, 2014.
  4. ^ a b "The Making of 'Man on Fire'." About 37:50, interview segment of Mickey Rourke
  5. ^
  6. ^ 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" (Archive). Foreign Military Studies Office. Retrieved on May 15, 2014.
  7. ^ "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."
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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)."
  10. ^ a b "Social and Personal Obituaries". (Archive) Times of Malta. 14 July 2005. Retrieved on 28 March 2011.
  11. ^ Man on Fire (2004) - Trivia, IMDb, retrieved Tuesday 16th September 2014.
  12. ^ "Man on Fire (2004)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved May 31, 2010. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Man on Fire". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved March 19, 2011. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ Vijayan, Vipin. "Amitabh rocks in Ek Ajnabee". Retrieved on March 27, 2012.

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