Armed men hijack a New York City subway train, holding the passengers hostage in return for a ransom, and turning an ordinary day's work for dispatcher Walter Garber into a face-off with the mastermind behind the crime.
A wave of kidnappings has swept through Mexico, feeding a growing sense of panic among its wealthier citizens, especially parents. In one six-day period, there were twenty-four abductions, leading many to hire bodyguards for their children. Into this world enters John Creasy, a burned-out ex-CIA operative/assassin, who has given up on life. Creasy's friend Rayburn brings him to Mexico City to be a bodyguard to nine-year-old Pita Ramos, daughter of industrialist Samuel Ramos and his wife Lisa. Creasy is not interested in being a bodyguard, especially to a youngster, but for lack of something better to do, he accepts the assignment. Creasy barely tolerates the precocious child and her pestering questions about him and his life. But slowly, she chips away at his seemingly impenetrable exterior, his defenses drop, and he opens up to her. Creasy's new-found purpose in life is shattered when Pita is kidnapped. Despite being seriously wounded during the kidnapping, he vows to kill anyone ... Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Two sex scenes were filmed but then cut. One was between Creasy and Lisa and the other between Lisa and her husband. See more »
At the middle of the movie, the camera takes an aerial shot of an orange building, with the captions telling you is the Mexican Police Headquarters. In reality, that building is a major hospital on the Interlomas zone. See more »
A man can be an artist... in anything, food, whatever. It depends on how good he is at it. Creasey's art is death. He's about to paint his masterpiece.
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Special thanks to Mexico City. A very special place. See more »
Although released among a flock of revenge-minded action flicks (KILL BILL VOL. 2; THE PUNISHER; WALKING TALL), MAN ON FIRE works as well as it does thanks in large part to the always-watchable Denzel Washington, one of the best actors around today.
In MAN ON FIRE, based on A.J. Quinnell's 1980 novel (first filmed in 1987, with Scott Glenn), Washington plays a down-on-his-luck ex-mercenary who has now stooped to drinking from a flash of Jack Daniels, until his old partner (Christopher Walken) offers him a chance at redemption. He is hired on as a bodyguard to the 10 year-old daughter (Dakota Fanning) of a Mexican businessman (Marc Antony) and his American-born wife (Radha Mitchell). While he and Fanning work like oil and water first (not mixing very well), he really gets to form a bond with her, encouraging her to do better at swimming, while he at the same time attempts to deal with the demons of the past. It is that very bond that will force Washington back into his old line of work when Fanning is kidnapped and held for a $10 million ransom, and he is nearly killed. With almost any other stock action hero (Schwarzenneger; Segal, etc.), the subsequent bloodbath would be the same repetitive schlock we've seen a million times before. But Washington's character, though he's killing for a reason, does not particularly enjoy doing what he does. Still, he gets help from a very intrepid Mexican newspaper reporter (Rachel Ticotin) out to expose "La Hermanidad" (The Brotherhood), the kidnap gang responsible for Fanning's abduction.
MAN ON FIRE is flawed to some extent because of the hyper camera work, nearly headache-inducing montage editing, and various film stocks that are par for the course of its director Tony Scott (TOP GUN; CRIMSON TIDE), but which are not necessarily unique to him (witness Oliver Stone's use of montage in JFK or Sam Peckinpah's in his classic 60s and 70s films). Still, Scott gets a very good performance from Washington, as well as Fanning, who comes across as far more than a typical movie-brat kid. Harry Gregson-Williams' south-of-the-border Spanish guitar score is enhanced by soundtrack splashes of Chopin, Debussy, and even Linda Ronstadt's classic 1977 country-rock version of "Blue Bayou." Although the film overall is quite violent, it is no worse than most action films of the last ten years, and overall it is much better than most.
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