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
Christopher Walken
Giancarlo Giannini
Radha Mitchell
Marc Anthony
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
CountriesUnited States
United Kingdom [1]
Budget$70 million
Box office$130.3 million

Man on Fire is a 2004 action thriller film [2] 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 U.S. Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance Captain and CIA Special Activities Division 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.


A modest box office success, the film received mixed reviews.


Former CIA SAD/SOG officer John W. Creasy, comes to Mexico to visit his old friend, Paul Rayburn. Rayburn convinces him to take a bodyguard position. Creasy agrees, and is offered the job by Samuel Ramos, an automaker in Mexico City whose young daughter Lupita "Pita" Ramos requires a bodyguard and the kidnapping insurance policy takes effect.

Creasy struggles with alcoholism, burnout, and guilt over his actions with the CIA. He attempts to commit suicide, but the bullet in his gun misfires. He eventually re-channels his efforts into his job and soon bonds with Pita. Noticing that Pita, a swimmer, becomes startled by the starter gun at her swim meets, Creasy begins to coach her, and she learns to react to the starter gun and dive into the water instead of flinching, eventually winning a swim meet.

One day, while waiting for Pita outside of her piano lesson, Creasy notices a car with two men circling the area, and two Federal Police officers block the street. As Pita emerges, Creasy yells at her to run, but she freezes. The car Creasy noticed pulls up and the men attempt to grab Pita, but Creasy fires his gun in the air, causing her to run away. Creasy attempts to fend off the attackers, killing three, and wounding a fourth, but is critically wounded himself. Pita runs back to him, but is then abducted by the remaining kidnappers.

While recovering from his injuries, AFI agent Miguel Manzano has Creasy relocated to a veterinarian clinic, explaining to Rayburn that he believes the corrupt police will want revenge on Creasy for the deaths of their colleagues. When Creasy comes to, he is questioned by Manzano, but refuses to divulge any information. He then meets reporter Mariana Garcia Guerrero, who offers to help Creasy in his investigation.

The ransom drop for Pita fails when the kidnappers are ambushed by rival criminals. The leader of the kidnappers, "The Voice," is enraged at the death of his nephew during the botched drop and holds the Ramoses responsible, informing Pita's mother, Lisa, that Pita will be lost to her and Samuel forever as retribution. Creasy uses this lead to wage war on the kidnapping ring and police corruption that are responsible for Pita's apparent death. He tracks down, interrogates, and kills the getaway driver, followed by "Jersey Boy" who acted as a middle man, and Lt. Victor Fuentes, who coordinated the drop. From Fuentes, Creasy learns that most of the ransom money had been stolen before the ambush at the drop and that Jordan Kalfus, Samuel's lawyer who suggested the kidnapping insurance, loaded the money into the vehicle selected to bring Samuel to the drop. Upon going to Kalfus’ residence, he discovers Kalfus dead and a fax with bank account information leading him to Samuel.

When Creasy confronts Samuel and Lisa, Samuel explains that his father left him a ruined auto empire full of debt, and that Kalfus recommended arranging a kidnapping where he could claim the insurance payout and pay his debts. They were promised that Pita would be unharmed. After the drop went bad, Samuel held Kalfus responsible for Pita's apparent death and killed him in a rage. Lisa, who was unaware of Samuel's involvement, tells Creasy to "kill him or (she) will". Creasy leaves his gun and the bullet that he used to attempt suicide with Samuel. Remorseful, Samuel loads the bullet and shoots himself in the head.

Creasy learns from Guerrero that an ATM card he recovered earlier is linked to a man who lives on the edge of the city. Manzano's people, acting on Guerrero's information, infiltrate the man's home and find a picture of "The Voice". Guerrero runs a story in her paper, revealing the ringleader to be a man named Daniel Sanchez. The man linked to the ATM card turns out to be Daniel's brother Aurelio. Creasy breaks into the home and takes Aurelio and his family prisoner, despite being shot in the chest in the process. He then calls Daniel, threatening to kill his family unless he turns himself over to Creasy. However, Daniel reveals that Pita is still alive, and offers to trade her for his brother and Creasy. Creasy agrees to the deal.

After arriving at the overpass where the meeting is and seeing the still-alive Pita, he crosses between them on foot, meeting Pita in the middle. He says goodbye and assures her that he loves her before sending her to Lisa, who is waiting for her back by his car. Creasy then brings Aurelio to Daniel's men and surrenders to them, but succumbs to his wounds while in transit. Meanwhile, Manzano tracks Daniel to his home and kills him, marking in the official report that Daniel died during the course of 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 as of the time was 1983's The Hunger , lacked the experience to direct this as his second film.

The novel was first adapted into the 1987 film Man on Fire , starring Scott Glenn as Creasy. This movie, like the novel, was set in Italy, then a major center of kidnapping.

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. [10]

20th Century Fox wanted the film to still be set in Italy. [10] 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. [11] 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. [10] Mexico City became the setting of the 2004 film because Mexico City had a high kidnapping rate, [12] and due to other reasons. [10] 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. [11] Prior to his death, Marlon Brando was the original choice to play Rayburn. [13]


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 No. 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. [14] 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. [15]

The film has a rating of 38% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 169 reviews, with an average rating of 5.30/10. The consensus states, "Man on Fire starts out well, but goes over the top in the violent second half." [16] The film also has a score of 47 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 36 reviews. [17]

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. [18]

A. J. Quinnell had a favorable reception to this adaptation, mainly because the film used many of the book's lines. [12] Quinnell said that usually screenwriters "like to leave their mark on the product." [19] 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." [19] 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." [8]

Awards and Nominations

2004 Golden Schmoes Awards Best Supporting Actress of the Year Dakota Fanning Nominated
2005 BMI Film & TV Awards Premio IMC Film MusicMan on FireWon
2005 Critics' Choice Movie Awards Best Young Actress Dakota Fanning Nominated
2005 Golden Trailer Awards Best Action MovieMan on FireNominated
2005 Golden Trailer Awards Best Action Movie – DramaMan on FireNominated
2005 NAACP Image Awards Best Outstanding Feature FilmMan on FireNominated
2005 NAACP Image Awards Best Actor Denzel Washington Nominated
2005 Young Artist Awards Best Young Actress Dakota Fanning Nominated


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]


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). [21] The same year, it was also remade in Tamil language as Aanai starring Arjun Sarja.

See also

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  8. 1 2 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.
  9. "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."
  10. 1 2 3 4 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 March 30, 2011. ISBN   90-420-2939-0, ISBN   978-90-420-2939-2.
  11. 1 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)."
  12. 1 2 "Social and Personal Obituaries" Archived January 19, 2012, at WebCite . (Archive) Times of Malta . July 14, 2005. Retrieved on March 28, 2011.
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  14. "Man on Fire (2004)". Box Office Mojo . IMDb . Retrieved May 31, 2010.
  15. "Year End 2004 Top Money Makers". Variety. December 30, 2004.
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  19. 1 2 Massa, Ariadne. "Gozo based author sees first book become a bestseller" (Archive). The Times of Malta . November 10, 2004. Retrieved on March 28, 2012.
  20. "Man on Fire 2004 Soundtrack". AllMusic . November 21, 2016. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
  21. Vijayan, Vipin. "Amitabh rocks in Ek Ajnabee". Retrieved on March 27, 2012.