Tony Scott was originally slated to direct. But the studio balked because at the time they felt he was not accomplished enough to pull off the project. He would go on to direct the remake Man on Fire. See more »
And so. That's how I ended. A stiff in a body bag.
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When most people today hear the title "Man on Fire", they probably think right away of the 2004 film starring Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning. Unbeknownst to many of them is that film is in fact a remake of a gritty, disturbing, and above all, unusual European film of the same title. The 1987 version of "Man on Fire" is probably a film that I would have to consider schlock. From the looks of it, it's budget was fairly decent for it has good acting, good effects, and good sound design. But the reason why it falls under the category of schlock is because of its very unusual and sometimes, inferior styles. This is a film that will meet viewers halfway. Some people will enjoy it just for what it is. And the other half will simply despise it.
For me, "Man on Fire" was in deed unusual and strange and definitely not the most creative film ever made. But while that is true in my personal opinion, there is another factor that I cannot deny. And that is the factor that while the film was a bit shoddy, it was highly entertaining and in a way, a bit more complex and more compelling than the 2004 remake. It has some gorgeous scenery, absolutely wonderful acting, a fairly decent screenplay, and other things that I simply find attractive in a motion picture. Scott Glenn was absolutely flawless as Creasy and he pulled off the character as being mysterious, cold, and unusual. He wasn't quite the tough guy as Denzel Washington was in the remake. To be honest, I wanted him to be tougher, but it kind of worked out. Jade Malle, an actress who unfortunately did not do much acting after this debut, was fairly good as Sam. Yes, she wasn't the best child actress in the world and not a patch when compared to Dakota Fanning, but I found her to a fairly decent addition to the cast. And Joe Pesci, while definitely one of the unusual aspects of the film, pulled off a fairly good performance as well.
Action sequences in "Man on Fire" were fairly decent. Many of them were flawed, but they were, for the most part, thrilling. There was one part that I personally felt did not work out. When one of the bad guys gets shot in the stomach, he just kind of stands there until he finally starts to slowly fall over. The camera doesn't change angles or anything like that to create a more distressful feeling. But other than that, the gunfights and action sequences were intense, gritty, and bloody. And the gore here is used at a controlled level. And what I will always remember about this film was that unlike the 2004 version, there was a scene here that just made me jump.
So what doesn't work in "Man on Fire"? Basically, it's just a few aspects of the film's style. Some parts of the film I think could have used a few more takes. The scene where Creasy finds the first of the kidnappers probably could have been done differently, for I found it to be too disturbing and uncomfortable. And like I said, there are some wonderfully talented actors and actresses in this film. Jade Malle's parents were portrayed wonderfully, unfortunately, their characters are what I would call stick figures. Just in the background, so that you know they're there. The ending for the film is a mysterious one of the highest order. For a while, it doesn't make any sense. And I think the explanation of the ending just depends on an individual viewer's point of view. Maybe that's what the director intended.
The original 1987 "Man on Fire" is not the kind of film for everybody. Some aspects of it are inferior to the 2004 remake, but other aspects exceed well above it. Personally, I might prefer this version for its colorful acting, its not-so-gangster style, Scott Glenn's wonderful performance, the great music score, and just the great thrills of a 1980s European thriller.
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