On his first day on the job as a Los Angeles narcotics officer, a rookie cop goes beyond a full work day in training within the narcotics division of the L.A.P.D. with a rogue detective who isn't what he appears to be.
After a ferry is bombed in New Orleans, an A.T.F. agent joins a unique investigation using experimental surveillance technology to find the bomber, but soon finds himself becoming obsessed with one of the victims.
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 man believes he has put his mysterious past behind him and has dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But when he meets a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can't stand idly by - he has to help her.
Hard drinking, burnt out ex CIA operative John Creasy has given up on life until he's hired as a bodyguard to protect nine year old Pita Ramos. Bit by bit, Creasy begins to reclaim some of his soul, but when pita is kidnapped, Creasy's fiery rage is finally released and he will stop at nothing to save her as he sets out on a dangerous, revenge fuelled rescue mission.Written by
The occasional opera-like singing of a woman as background in a few scenes is identical, or very similar, to that used by Tony Scott's brother Ridley in Gladiator a few years earlier. See more »
After Pita is kidnapped, the police chief gives her full name as "Pita Martin Ramos". Not only is the child's real first name "Lupita," but according to Mexican name customs, the father's surname should go first, making it "Lupita Ramos Martin". See more »
Righteous retribution and the John Creasy redemption.
Man on Fire is directed by Tony Scott and adapted to screenplay by Brian Helgeland from the novel of the same name written by A.J. Quinell. It stars Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Marc Anthony, Rachael Ticotin, Radha Mitchell, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Giannini, Mickey Rourke and Jesús Ochoa. Music is scored by Harry Gregson-Williams and cinematography by Paul Cameron.
Mexico City and kidnappings are rife. Enter ex-military operative John Creasy (Washington). Often drunk and with no discerning aims in life, Creasy is hired by the Ramos family to act as bodyguard to their young daughter Pita (Fanning). After initially being cold and distant, Creasy starts to form a warm relationship with Pita, but tragedy strikes and Pita is kidnapped. This sets the wheels in motion for Creasy to go on a one man war of revenge against anyone involved in the snatch.
Directed with a raft of deliriously ace neo-noir flourishes by Tony Scott, Man on Fire is 145 minutes of fatalism. From the outset it's evident that this sweaty part of Mexico is home to a tortured soul, a man in desperate need of redemption. John Creasy will get this redemption, by hook or by crook, we know this, the narrative structure quickly pulls us in to impress this fact upon us. How he finds it, both emotionally and physically, is what drives the picture on. This is no ordinary tale of revenge, an excuse for pyrotechnics and inventive deaths, it is about one man's journey to said redemption, his trawl through hell, his personal sacrifice is his calling.
The catalyst is the kidnapping of young Pita Ramos, but where it would have been easy for Scott to jump in early and unleash Creasy hell, the director shows great restraint by affording time to the relationship of John and Pita. Most of the first hour is spent building a bond between them, the child softening the edges of the Creasy exterior, to then enter into his heart as he becomes not just a friend, but a surrogate father as well. It's a very real relationship, a natural one, so when things go pear shaped in the second half of the piece, we care what is happening.
Yet constantly that air of fatalism and pessimism hangs heavy as the plot thickens, the unfolding story pulsing with betrayal at almost every turn, classic neo-noir and Scott amps up the disorientation as we enter a hellish world of social decay. His box of tricks contain jump-cuts, film stock, reverse process, over-saturated colours, kinetic camera work, step-printing and slow-mo, all used to create the perfect tonal discord, a marrying up of the anti-hero's state of mind and that of the realm he has entered.
The film can be accused of pandering to stereotyping Latino baddies, especially irksome since the source novel was based in Italy, and that is a misstep that could have been avoided, but Man on Fire remains one of the most important neo-noirs available to view. It refuses to take easy options, particularly with the jet black finale, it has a grasp on what is required for quintessential neo-noir. Backed by stunning work from Washington, Scott and Cameron, it's a film equally of high technical merit as it is of narrative bite. 9/10
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