Man on Fire (2004 film)
|Man on Fire|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tony Scott|
|Screenplay by||Brian Helgeland|
Man on Fire|
by A. J. Quinnell
|Edited by||Christian Wagner|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$130.3 million|
Man on Fire is a 2004 British-American action drama 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 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 through Rayburn to guard their nine-year-old daughter "Pita". Samuel is having financial problems and secretly intends to keep Creasy only long enough to satisfy the requirements to renew his kidnap and ransom insurance (K&R) on Pita.
One night, drinking heavily, Creasy tries to commit suicide, but the cartridge fails to fire when he pulls the trigger. He calls Rayburn, who says that "a bullet always tells the truth."
Creasy distances himself from Pita, but soon begins to bond with the kind and astute girl, helping her develop her competitive swimming skills while controlling his drinking, having found renewed purpose in life.
One day, as Creasy waits to escort Pita from a piano lesson, a group of civilian thugs and two uniformed Policía Judicial Federal (PJF) officers kidnap her. Creasy opens fire, killing four of the kidnappers (including the corrupt PJF officers), but collapses from multiple gunshot wounds as the abductors escape with Pita. Creasy is hospitalized, charged for murdering the policeman 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 corrupt PJF cops, so has Rayburn help move him to a veterinary hospital.
The head of the kidnapping ring, dubbed "The Voice" for his many ransom calls, contacts Samuel with instructions to deliver a US$10 million ransom. Samuel's attorney Jordan Kalfus and PJF Lieutenant Victor Fuentes gather the ransom through the K&R policy, then deliver it to the kidnappers. The drop, however, is ambushed by members of "La Hermandad", a powerful crime syndicate composed of corrupt PJF officers, who steal the money and kill The Voice's nephew in the process. The Voice notifies Samuel and Lisa that as retribution for his nephew's death, Pita will now be lost to them forever.
Creasy finally wakes in the vet hospital, and learns from Rayburn about the foiled ransom and Pita's death. Against the doctor’s advice that his wounds could kill him, Creasy leaves before the hospital to start his own investigation. He goes to Pita's room, looking for her notebook for a suspicious license plate she once recorded, when Lisa appears and approves of his intention to kill everyone involved in Pita’s abduction. Rayburn helps Creasy purchase multiple black market weapons and explosives. Mariana Guerrero, Manzano’s girlfriend and a journalist investigating kidnappings, convinces Manzano that they should provide logistical support.
Pita’s license plate note leads Creasy to Jorge Gonzalez, the thug he saw dragging Pita away. Gonzalez turns out to be another PJF cop, who reveals (when tortured by Creasy) that he is a member of a criminal syndicate called "La Hermandad". He gives Creasy information on the operatives involved in the next stage of the kidnapping. Creasy tortures (then brutally kills) his way up the chain of command. The trail leads to PJF Lt. Fuentes, who is revealed to be the "president" of La Hermandad. Fuentes reveals that his men stole the ransom (a regular part of their illegal activities), but that the bags only held 25% of the ransom. In a failed attempt to have Creasy spare his life, Fuentes reveals that lawyer Kalfus was the last to handle the ransom bags, tying him to the missing $7.5 million.
Creasy finds Kalfus dead at home, and also finds evidence of questionable financial dealings with Samuel, linking Samuel to the kidnapping. When he confronts Samuel and Lisa, Samuel confesses to Creasy and Lisa that he agreed to Kalfus' plan to work with The Voice to stage Pita's kidnapping. He needed $5 million of the K&R policy to pay off gambling debts he inherited from his father, splitting the rest between Kalfus and The Voice; he had not anticipated Fuentes' corruption and betrayal would ruin the plan and get Pita killed. Samuel held Kalfus responsible for the botched drop (since he had personally brought Fuentes in to assist in the scheme) and confesses to killing him. An enraged Lisa demands that Creasy kill Samuel; Creasy instead leaves Samuel with a pistol and the misfired round, which Samuel uses to commits suicide.
Using information provided by Creasy, Manzano is able to identity 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 estranged wife and three of his children staying there as well. Aurelio shoots Creasy, but Creasy ties him up, tortures him, and has the wife phone Daniel. Creasy threatens to kill all of Daniel’s family unless he gives himself up, but Daniel for Creasy himself. After Daniel is able to provide confirmation that Pita is alive, Creasy agrees to the demands. Creasy calls Lisa with the news and has her join him at the exchange, having her hold a shotgun to Aurelio’s head to ensure the exchange happens. Creasy and Pita embrace and briefly talk at the midpoint of the exchange. Pita runs to her mother, who releases Aurelio while Creasy surrenders to the kidnappers. As Lisa and Pita drive away, Creasy succumbs to multiple gunshot wounds and dies in the kidnapper’s car. Manzano, knowing Pita is free and Creasy is dead, kills Daniel during his “arrest”.
- Denzel Washington as John W. Creasy, mercenary, former CIA operative and Force Recon Marine officer
- Dakota Fanning as Lupita (Pita) Ramos
- Radha Mitchell as Lisa Ramos. Lisa originates from Houston, Texas. Eric Harrison of the Houston Chronicle described Lisa as an "American trophy wife with a Southern accent that seems to come and go."
- Christopher Walken as Paul Rayburn, who runs a security firm in Mexico
- Marc Anthony as Samuel Ramos
- Giancarlo Giannini as Miguel Manzano, director of the AFI. Tony Scott stated "Giancarlo loves women, as did this character."
- 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." Therefore, Kalfus "[wants] to be there for him" when Ramos "gets his head underwater a little bit".
- Rachel Ticotin as Mariana Garcia Guerrero, a reporter for the Diario Reforma
- Roberto Sosa as Daniel Sanchez, "The Voice". He is based on a real kidnapper, Daniel Arizmendi López.
- Jesús Ochoa as Victor Fuentes, a lieutenant in the Anti-Kidnapping Division of the Federal Judicial Police and the head of the criminal “La Hermandad” syndicate
- Gero Camilo as Aurelio Sanchez. Based on Aurelio Arizmendi López, the brother of Daniel Arizmendi López.
- Mario Zaragoza as Jorge Gonzalez, a Federal Judicial policeman and member of the criminal “La Hermandad” syndicate, who physically kidnaps Pita off the street
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."
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.
- "Man on Fire (2004)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
- Man on Fire: Box Office Mojo
- "The Making of 'Man on Fire'." (See iMDB entry) About 32:19, interview segment of Tony Scott after interview segment of Marc Anthony
- Harrison, Eric. "Man on Fire." Houston Chronicle. April 23, 2004. Retrieved on May 15, 2014.
- "Story Notes for Man on Fire" (Archive). AMC TV. Retrieved on May 15, 2014.
- "The Making of 'Man on Fire'." About 37:50, interview segment of Mickey Rourke
- 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.
- "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."
- 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.
- "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)."
- "Social and Personal Obituaries". (Archive) Times of Malta. 14 July 2005. Retrieved on 28 March 2011.
- Man on Fire (2004) - Trivia, IMDb, retrieved Tuesday 16th September 2014.
- "Man on Fire (2004)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved May 31, 2010.
- "Man on Fire". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved March 19, 2011.
- 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.
- Massa, Ariadne. "Gozo based author sees first book become a bestseller" (Archive). The Times of Malta. 10 November 2004. Retrieved on 28 March 2012.
- Vijayan, Vipin. "Amitabh rocks in Ek Ajnabee". Rediff.com. Retrieved on March 27, 2012.
- "Man on Fire 2004 Soundtrack". AllMusic. 21 November 2016. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
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