Man on Fire (2004)

Starring: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Christopher Walken, Radha Mitchell, Marc Anthony, Mickey Rourke, and Giancarlo Giannini
Grade: A+

Even with how the film ends, there are very few films as satisfying as Man on Fire, and I’ll argue that with anyone.


To open, a caption states, “There is one kidnapping every 60 minutes in Latin America. 70% of the victims do not survive”. As this is said, some older kid is kidnapped and tortured through the opening credits. This person survives after his father adheres to the instructions given, but the kid is placed in the middle of traffic in his underwear with one ear.

Well, that’s quite the way to get the audience’s attention.

In El Paso, Texas at the U.S./Mexico border, former CIA operative and current alcoholic John W. Creasy (Washington) crosses over to Mexico to visit his old friend Paul Rayburn (Walken) at a house party he’s hosting. Rayburn runs a security firm down there and is practically looked at like he’s John Wayne by the people for what he does. As they sit and talk by the pool about Creasy not having any job prospects at the moment, we cut to wealthy automaker Samuel Ramos (Anthony) and his lawyer Jordan Kalfus (Rourke) at some restaurant. Kalfus tells him how the person who was kidnapped in the opening credits was saved but is missing an ear. Ramos admits everyone in Mexico wants bigger and better bodyguards because of incidents like this, with his wife Lisa (Radha Mitchell) being one of them. Kalfus takes Lisa’s side on the matter and reminds Ramus his kidnapping/ransom insurance expires in 60 days, and he won’t be able to renew it because he doesn’t have a bodyguard at the moment. Arguing that you get what you pay for when hiring a bodyguard, Kalfus suggests Ramos hire someone cheap until it’s time to renew the policy. When it’s in effect, fire the guy for whatever reason. This way his daughter goes back to school, Lisa saves face, and his family won’t be the only one who’s unprotected in the neighborhood. Later, Creasy and Rayburn are driving, and Rayburn offers him the job of bodyguard for the Ramos family. According to Creasy himself, he couldn’t “guard a corpse” in his current drunken state, but he accepts based off of Rayburn’s insistence. He tells Creasy that Ramos owns one of the plants in Juarez and his family lives in Mexico City. Ramos asked Rayburn directly if he knew someone he could trust. Since he’s free at the moment and Rayburn finally has someone that he can talk down there, the reluctant Creasy is persuaded enough to take the job.

Later, Creasy is driving while Ramos reads Creasy’s resume in the backseat. Already, Creasy has cleaned up his look a bit, with Ramos telling him ahead of time that Lisa wants their bodyguard to be presentable and polite. He’s the fifth candidate they’ll be seeing this week. Ramos sees on Creasy’s resume that he has 16 years of military experience, counterterrorism work, etc. He is thoroughly impressed with it, so he wonders what the catch is.

This is where Creasy replies with the brutally honest, “I drink”.

Doubling down, he admits it can affect his coordination and reaction time, but he promises to do his best if kidnappers attempt anything. Undeterred, Ramos tells him to conceal his drinking from Lisa as they pull up to Ramos’s house. Lisa is American, so she is automatically happy to see Creasy is the same. After some polite questioning from Lisa where they discuss how he’s never technically been a bodyguard, and how he doesn’t have a family, Lisa basically gives him the job without even looking at his resume. She calls over her daughter Pita (Fanning) from the piano she was playing to show Creasy to his room. Once Creasy and Pita exit, Lisa admits she feels comfortable already with Creasy because he’s American. Pita shows Creasy around the large property and to where he’ll be staying. After showing him the pet parrot in his room from the last bodyguard Emilio, Pita asks if she’s the first child he has been a bodyguard for and he responds affirmatively. That night, we see Lisa tuck in Pita for the night, with Pita naming her stuffed bear “Creasy Bear”. In his room, Creasy practices with his gun and continues to drink. Lisa tells Ramos that Pita likes Creasy, but Ramos is noticeably stressed out and seems uncaring of the news, leading to the two getting intimate. The next morning, Creasy takes a look at a map to figure out a safe route to take Pita to school, but Emilio’s parrot keeps squawking, and it distracts him. As a response, he lets the parrot out the window. Following this, Creasy drives Pita to school, and she annoys the hell out of him with her constant questions. He gives short responses back so he can focus on his driving. She’s persistent though. At one point, she tells him there has been 24 kidnappings in Mexico City in the last six days and asks what he thinks, though he just tells her she knows entirely more than she should. Once he drops her off, he tries to leave, but Pita tells him he has to sign in and show the school his identification.

Nun Sister Anna (Angelina Peláez) greets the two once Creasy goes through the protocol. Pita leaves to go to class, but Sister Anna tries to give Creasy shit for his profession. She quotes a bible verse but is shocked to hear him finish the verse for her word for word.

When Pita gets out of school and Creasy drives her back home, she continues her questions. Eventually, she asks about the wounds on his hand. He tries to pass it off as a birth defect, but she knows it’s not and tells him right away. This incenses Creasy to the point where he has to tell her to stop with the questions because he’s not being paid to be her friend. Pita takes it to heart, gets out of the car when they’re at a stop, and jumps in the backseat. Back at the house, Creasy drinks by himself in his room. Lisa stops by to talk to him and notices he’s been reading the bible, which he reveals he reads from time to time. Changing the subject, Lisa asks Creasy to be light on Pita, but he reiterates his point on being paid to be her protector and not her friend. He’s right and Lisa realizes this, but she does say she’ll ride with them for tomorrow’s trip to school. That night, Creasy gets super drunk to the point where he tries to shoot himself but the gun misfires. He calls Rayburn to talk, waking him up. Creasy walks around the suicide attempt but talks about the gun misfiring, and Rayburn reminds of something they used to say in that “a bullet always tells the truth”. Standing in the rain and contemplating life after he hangs up, Creasy makes eye contact with Pita, who looks at him from her window. The next morning, Creasy saves the bullet that misfired in a matchbox. Following this, Creasy, Pita, and Lisa drive to school, with Creasy noticing a car tailing them. Getting a pencil from Pita, he quickly writes down their license plate number and Pita does the same. He gets distracted while writing and trying to drive at the same time, so he stops after hearing some honking. With this, the mysterious car drives around them and heads in a different direction.

Because of this, he misses the last number on the license plate.

Later, Creasy observes Pita at her swimming practice. He gives her credit for being a strong swimmer, but she admits she never wins. In the car ride home, she asks what she should do. Creasy points out she’s the fasted one in the water but the slowest off the block, so the answer is obvious. She has a big swim meet in three weeks but isn’t too confident with her chances because of her never getting past third place. After a little joke from Creasy admitting how she may be slow, she smiles. That night, Creasy watches a reporter from the Diario Reforma named Mariana Guerrero (Rachel Ticotin) on television. She talks about how the kidnappings in Mexico are all revolved around organized crime with no political ties, unlike Colombia. He’s interrupted by Pita yelling across the property from her room to point out that Emilio’s parrot is there and outside on the windowsill. She asks how it happened, and he admits he let him go and how freedom is better for him. Plus, he was driving Creasy crazy. She smiles and goes to sleep with her stuffed bear. The next morning, Lisa and Samuel leave for some trip. This leaves Pita alone with Creasy. From there however, their friendship begins to blossom. He helps her train for her swim meet and with homework. They start to become the best of friends just as Lisa and Ramos get back home, with Ramos gifting Pita a dog. In Pita’s room, her and Creasy work on some homework, but Pita gets off topic and asks about Creasy’s history with women. Lisa listens in and as Creasy playingly walks around the question, she interrupts to ask Creasy for a ride the next day to get her hair done once he’s done with Pita. At Pita’s big swim meet, he gives her some last-minute words of encouragement. Once she gets ready, Sister Anna greets him. He tries to explain Pita’s parents being away on business in Juarez, but she quickly cuts him off and says he is her father today.

With this in mind, Creasy watches the meet intently and Pita wins! They embrace afterwards and go out and celebrate at some restaurant with Rayburn and his wife. There, Pita presents Creasy with a gift she bought with her own money. It’s a small bear containing a necklace of Saint Jude, the “patron saint of lost causes”. Creasy thanks her with a warmed heart. That night, the inspired Creasy puts down his bottle of Jack Daniels and decides to read a passage out of his bible instead. Meanwhile, Pita asks her father if she can stop playing piano and just swim, but he refuses to even entertain the thought because her teacher has a lot of fanfare and if Pita is accepted as a student, it would be huge for her.

The next morning, Creasy drives Pita to her piano lesson and she makes it clear how much she hates playing. Also, she talks about how she wrote down the license plate number from that car a few weeks ago but couldn’t get the last digit, with Creasy promising to get her from her later. Regarding the piano issue, he comes up with a plan for her. He tells her to burp during the lesson and apologize for it each time but continue to do so. With this, the snobby teacher will refuse to take her on as a student and she can focus on swimming. Finally, they get to the building. Waiting outside, Pita gifts Creasy a dandelion from the ground and he puts it in his shirt. Once she’s let in, the teacher tells Creasy the lesson will be an hour. Waiting outside, Creasy plays with the family dog Sam. Something is not right though. The energy in the air is different. He starts to notice cop cars circling the area and stopping close by. Then, he sees the same car that tailed them earlier in the movie. As Pita gets out of her lesson, Creasy runs towards her because he sees men getting out of their cars, with Creasy pulling out his gun. This ignites a shootout, and Creasy signals for Pita to run with a gunshot in the air that triggers it. Creasy takes out four of them, but he is shot quite a few times. Pita sees Creasy get hit and runs to him after another shot takes him to the ground. As she screams and tries to get him up, Pita is taken.

To make matters worse, the corrupt police are charging Creasy with the murders of the policemen that tried to kill him, and they accuse him of being involved in the kidnapping. As they announce this to all the reporters at the hospital, Mariana Guerreo points out that the policemen who were killed were off duty but in their uniforms at the scene. Director of the AFI and former director of Interpol in Rome Miguel Manzano (Giancarlo Giannini) adds to her point by saying they were known for being corrupt and are now celebrated for being dead, which gets a laugh from the other reporters. The cops ignore the comments and take questions from others. Shortly after, a mishap occurs when the Ramos family tries to deliver the money. The unknown kidnappers see it as deviating from the plan and they tell them Pita is not coming back. Following this, a badly injured Creasy is told by Rayburn that Pita is dead. Facing insurmountable odds but with revenge on the mind, Creasy will now become a one-man army to kill anyone who was remotely involved in this mess.

My Thoughts:

Revenge is the bread and butter of the action film genre. You add kidnapping to the mix or a deceased friend or a relative, and you’re guaranteed a fun time. Viewers know this too, which is why there’s a million of these types of movies and they usually do pretty well. As long as you have a marquee star entrenched in the action, you’re going to find an audience of some sorts. With that being said, Tony Scott’s Man on Fire is one of the best examples of this type of action film. Cool, cold, action-packed, heartfelt and bloodthirsty, the second adaptation of A.J. Quinnell’s novel is everything it needs to be. What takes it to the next level however is Denzel Washington, with his performance as John Creasy being the stuff of legend. Even though they could’ve made a franchise out of this character’s adventures, and we’d be along for the ride every step of the way, there was no sequel needed. In what could have been a regular old revenge thriller quickly cast aside in the heap of similarly themed films, the team of Washington and Scott are able to push past this and make this one-off one of the finest examples of violent entertainment.

At first, we are introduced to Creasy at his lowest. Sporting a patchy beard and cool shades, the alcoholic Creasy is aimless. To outsiders, Creasy looks like the coolest guy in the room, as any Denzel Washington character does. However, as we see him heavy pouring his Jack Daniel’s, we can see our protagonist is not okay. Because of his past experiences in the CIA and military, he’s a broken man far off from what he used to be or has potential of being now. When you’ve killed enough people, it starts to wear on you. Creasy has gone past this threshold and hasn’t been able to recover since, which is why he’s such a great allegory for St. Jude. The protective Creasy, who was on the verge of never regaining his humanity before he met Pita, is a great example of someone who can represent the patron saint of lost causes. Though Denzel Washington still carries his youthful charisma and infectious smile in these early sequences, the darkness within him is still evident, especially to those who know him like Rayburn. In the middle of their relaxed conversation by the poolside of Rayburn’s house, a moment of silence follows the two laughing together. Out of nowhere, Creasy asks Rayburn, “You think God will forgive us for what we’ve done?”, with Rayburn confidently responding “No”. In this moment, Creasy looks as if he already knew the answer but was hoping for his friend to quell his suspicions with hope. However, Rayburn only confirms the answer he was afraid of. These two have had years of experience taking lives, but the only way to respond now is to figure out a way to make up for this lost time. Rayburn has done this and is living the retired life well, which is why he’s a beacon of light for Creasy in these dark times. He wants nothing to do with killing anymore, he’s married and enjoying life, and he runs a security firm. Though it may not make up for what he did in the past, he’s doing the best he can.

The well-cast Christopher Walken plays the retiree character very well because he generates this aura of someone who is a lot of fun but also someone who has been through a lot in life, which is why he’s enjoying the moment. Honestly, we want to see Christopher Walken in this movie so much more (mostly because I’m such a big fan), but the character wasn’t needed for any more than the scenes he was already in. Normally in action films, the state of their friend would be enough to bring him out of retirement to help, but they do a good job in showing and explaining why Rayburn wants no part of that life anymore. Then again, once we see Creasy mow down half of Mexico by himself, we realize he didn’t need the help anyway. Regardless, these first few scenes between the two friends are vital to setting up the rest of the film, why Creasy’s character arc is so enthralling to watch unfold, and why the length of the film is never looked at as a chore.

Even when Creasy takes the job, it’s because he has nothing going on. It’s not like he’s looking for redemption right off the bat, though he’s not completely lost either. We see it in the small moment when Rayburn sees Creasy pouring whiskey straight from his flask into a cup while in the backseat of Rayburn’s car. They don’t say anything directly nor acknowledge the problems of Creasy’s drinking, but Rayburn’s concerned look to his friend while talking about the Ramos job is enough for a small instance where Creasy realizes what Rayburn sees and accepts the job. Regardless, he has no plans to quit and makes this clear. In fact, no one in the film tells him to stop. It’s something he has to do himself if the time comes for it. Now, obviously people love the heartfelt Creasy of the second half of the film who goes scorched earth on the kidnappers, but what makes the second half so great are the introductory scenes of the fearless, unemotional Creasy who refuses to sugarcoat shit. This is what drew me in. He has nothing to lose, accepted the job on his friend’s insistence but does not give a fuck if he doesn’t get it, and he admits he’s a liability in the interview because he has no shame in his drinking. He got the job as an alcoholic and will do the job as an alcoholic. This is one stark difference between Creasy in this film and the previous adaptation. In the original movie from 1987, Scott Glenn’s Creasy is still emotionally stunted from his previous escapades in the CIA, but he just sticks with emotionless staring and an uncomfortable demeanor. Though relying on alcoholism may be a common trope with these types of protagonists, it generates a violent energy out of Denzel’s Creasy and the character is better off because of it. It gives the character more personality, makes him more interesting, and adds a lot of depth with his focus on numbing the pain of what he’s been through. It tells us a lot with how easy he goes to the bottle. With Glenn’s Creasy, he was just too boring. I’m not saying he needed to rely on a vice, he just needed something else to do besides moving to over-the-top flashback moments that take you out of the experience.

The creative decision in this version to make Creasy a confident and rough alcoholic with no intention on stopping was a fantastic layer to the character, and Washington played it phenomenally. He’s straight forward and it’s low-key hilarious too. Truth be told, if he stayed like this the entire movie, I still would’ve enjoyed the movie because Washington is that good in the first act. With this though, everyone underestimates Creasy, which is why the details of the third act do make more sense when you think about it. Right from the beginning, Ramos and Kalfus’s conversation set up the strategy and it makes sense, as diabolical as it ends up being. All they need is a sack of shit bodyguard to be the fall guy. Who better than the alcoholic who couldn’t give less of a fuck? In these earlier parts though, it’s very funny. Seeing Creasy as someone he can easily fire to keep his kidnapping/ransom insurance, Ramos just tells him to hide his drinking from his wife Lisa. As soon as they enter the house and Lisa offers to make him a drink, he asks for a Jack Daniel’s and water mix and looks straight at Ramos after he said it. In a film like this, little moments such as this one can have you cackling. The timing of the eye contact was perfect as if Creasy was saying, “What the fuck are you going to do about it?”, without actually saying it. When you couple this with Creasy having to fire three gunshots in the air at a rave to get everyone to leave but they don’t at first because they think it’s cool and Creasy’s shortness with Pita like when she asked, “Being black, is that a negative or a positive being a bodyguard in Mexico?”, and he responds with an annoyed, “Time will tell”, the humor is very well-placed to break up the tension early on, but his roughness only endears him to the audience because of the “movie star” aura Denzel Washington brings to every role.

This is just the beginning, as Pita wins over Creasy with her loving qualities and innocence. It shouldn’t surprise you that Dakota Fanning was great. She was one of the few child actors who truly understood the assignment from an early age, which is why she was everywhere when she was younger. She does it again here and is able to melt the heart of everyone, even the rough-around-the-edges Creasy. We see it even in the simplest of scenes like when Pita calls out Creasy for finally smiling a little bit and he denies it. Though we’ve seen scenes like this before, there’s an extra level of sweetness the way it’s handled here because of how great both actors are. She’s too cute for his hardnosed ways to the point where he can’t deny her heart and eagerness to win him over. When he gradually turns into this pseudo-stepfather, we’re hooked to these two. This is what makes the kidnapping so devasting. It makes you feel the raw emotion and determination Creasy has to reign hell upon the people that took this girl because she changed his life. It’s done remarkably well. Among other things, this is what Tony Scott’s Man on Fire does so much better than the 1987 version. Starting with the initial feeling out process between the two where Creasy and Pita are at complete opposite ends of the spectrum, to when Creasy starts to loosen up after his suicide attempt, to where they start to become inseparable friends, they hit on every aspect of their relationship. Plus, the chemistry and acting between the two are extraordinary, beating Scott Glenn and Jade Malle in every conceivable way. My biggest gripe with the first adaptation was that their friendship felt like it came more from the screenplay telling them to act it out. Their closeness didn’t feel as natural as it was written.

Here, it’s everything it needs to be. Scott uses the length of the film effectively to establish this part of the story, which is vital for us so we can root on the violence of the second half of the movie. Washington and Fanning are great and win us over in a realistic and emotional fashion. As a result, the kidnapping cuts deep and makes us even more emotionally invested in the story to the point where we’re begging Creasy to start taking souls. When he tells Lisa he promises to kill everyone involved and she gives the go-ahead, it’s couples as not only a badass movie moment but a powerful one needed to electric shock us for what’s coming.

In layman’s terms, it was AWESOME!

When “The Voice” tells Ramos and Lisa over the phone following the botched money drop, “You killed my nephew. You betrayed me…God be with your child”, the unmistakable feeling of horror sits in our stomach because the audience doesn’t know what to believe in this moment. Are they really going to do it? Are they going to kill a child? If you read the book, they actually do, which is why this is a startling possibility. It’s hard to watch a scene like this, especially with how well the character of Pita is built up to this point. Our hearts drop during this pivotal phone call. We may hear these threats a lot in kidnapping movies, but if it’s done correctly, it’s always a shocker. This is one of the better examples of it working, and the emotion only runs even higher when Lisa frantically tries to save the moment but is told it’s a lost cause. What follows is another powerful moment that no parent would ever want to go through. As the reality starts to sit in and the room of “experts” who were supposed to help them sit in silence, she flips out like only a mother would and demands everyone to leave after slapping a few of them. Radha Mitchell doesn’t have too many scenes in this film, but she makes the absolute most of the one’s she’s in and perfectly encapsulates how a mother would act in such a horrifying moment of losing a child. Once again, it sets up the vigilante justice to perfection. Critics may have torn apart this film for presenting this type of medieval violence and torture as “right” in the eyes of the audience, but you have to understand why this film has such a big fanbase. Put yourself in this scenario. How would you react? No one is advocating for violence, but who are we to tell this woman she should just sit and deal with the fact that her child was killed by kidnappers and her only help is a police force filled with corrupt cops who have a tendency to be involved in these sorts of things? If you had someone with Creasy’s skillset next to you knowing how close he was to her, you wouldn’t say anything to nudge him in the right direction? Yeah, it’s a little different when the shoe is on the other foot, isn’t it?

We all act different in anger and sadness. Man on Fire is just an example of a different perspective on these emotions and acting on it, and you can’t really blame Lisa for reacting the way she does. Ask any mother about this scenario and I guarantee you their response would be very similar to Lisa’s response of, “Kill them all!”. Also, you can enjoy the violence and still understand that Creasy isn’t a model citizen. The movie never argues this point, though critics seems to think otherwise because the violence seems to be celebrated. I don’t think it is. I think critics were saying this more because of the general reaction of the viewing public. Audiences like seeing bad people die. Sounds morbid, right? It is, but this is why action cinema is such a money-maker. This is why revenge thrillers are popular. Not only do we want to see the bad guys get their ass kicked, but the truly evil villains usually do enough to warrant death. This is why we cheer or smile when it happens. Man on Fire is as popular as it was/is because it knows it’s audience. As dark as some of the violence might be, with Creasy cutting off fingers (and an ear) any time one guy lies or doesn’t say anything as well as sticking a bomb up someone’s ass at one point to get information (the minute before this scene commences must have been really awkward), the viewer can’t help but cheer him on because these bastards don’t deserve a trial. When push comes to shove, a lot of people will shove back. It’s human nature. Critics can condemn this type of violence all they want, but at some point, they have to admit that people like these types of movies because it represents something they want to do but can’t because they know it’s wrong. Still, it’s not advocating violence, but you’re telling me you’re not allowed to enjoy it?

Now you’re just lying to yourself.

Maybe I’m a little different, but when Creasy holds a gun across from some guy who took money to help the kidnapping process along and asks if he said goodbye to her, with the guy saying “No” as he begs for his life, I got goosebumps when he held Pita’s picture to his face saying, “Well, now’s your chance”.

Creasy is the perfect antihero for this situation because the “good” people need someone who’s willing to go that far to make things right, and he has no problem with it because of that earlier conversation. God isn’t going to forgive him for what he’s done, and he knows it. He has nothing lose, with Pita’s announced death only adding to his anger. This is yet another huge difference between this film and the 1987 one, as Sam was never announced dead, giving Creasy more of a reason to find a way to live during his hunt to get her. Here, Creasy is a lost cause with no one to save initially. Even so, someone has to answer for this injustice. Additionally, he was still put in this situation for a reason, which is why his gun misfired when he thought the answer was suicide. It’s divine intervention if we’ve ever seen it. He’s far from perfect but he has now found his purpose, adding extra fuel to his delivery of, “Forgiveness is between them and God. It’s my job to arrange the meeting”. His purpose is saving the angel that saved him. She meant everything to him. Rayburn explains the situation simply by telling Miguel, “She showed him it was alright to live again, and the kidnappers took that away”. She changed a killer’s life for the better and you expect him to react peacefully? No, he knows what he has done is wrong, but he knows just as well that this girl didn’t deserve any of this. Knowing he’s the only one who can do anything and how far he’s come, Creasy has to fight fire with fire to stop the demons on this Earth and take them to hell with him. When you look at like this, you realize that there’s a lot more nuance to the violence than you may see at first glance.

He was a man on fire, until the flame burned out and his job was done. Now that is great writing.

As our lust for blood increases with each scene as Creasy takes on the La Hermandad, the demise of Mickey Rourke’s Jordan Kalfus felt mishandled. The whole conspiracy behind the plan not working is rooted back to him, but we don’t even get the satisfaction of watching him get murdered. The audience is only shown the aftermath. For action hero fans, this was a major let down because watching Denzel Washington take on Mickey Rourke, with Denzel inevitably beating his ass, would’ve been so gratifying to watch unfold. Kalfus was being difficult from the very beginning. He had it coming to him from a viewer’s perspective. Watching Creasy make him beg within an inch of his life would’ve been icing on the cake. It’s a minor gripe, but if you get such a big star to play a supporting villain role, I feel like this isn’t too hard to ask for. Additionally, I was not a fan of the Miguel character. He plays a crucial role in helping Creasy and reporter Mariana Guerrero and taking down La Hermandad, but he’s so sleazy that you’re not even convinced he won’t turn on them too. The added bonus of him sleeping with Mariana on the side didn’t feel necessary nor realistic whatsoever. At most, it would make a lot more sense for her to lead him on because she knows he would do anything to fuck her, but you’re telling me they’re actual fuck buddies on the side? It never felt right and was a very unnecessary detail. It didn’t add anything to the story. Side note, Marc Anthony left a lot to be desired as an actor. He showed flashes of potential, but there was something missing from him, especially in the first half of the movie.

Creasy’s ways of getting information are pretty inventive and gory, but it’s intensified by the frenetic direction of Tony Scott, along with the excellent editing tricks and cinematography combined with it. Usually, Scott’s style can be a bit jarring at times, but it fits the tone of Man on Fire so well because of the violent material and emotional themes as well. The shakiness of the camera and the visuals were a great way to show the audience a glimpse into Creasy’s repressed memories and the fury exuding from him internally during his hunt.

These “One Man Army” films will get anyone fired up, and Man on Fire is one of the best ever examples of it. For fans of action cinema, it’s one of most violent, gritty, and exciting thrillers of the “revenge” subgenre of action, with a savage Denzel Washington in one of his most underrated roles. At the same time, it’s well-written, powerfully acted, and will captivate you from an emotional perspective just as well. By the time this thing is over, there won’t be a dry eye in sight. If you love to see the bad guys get what they deserve, Man on Fire has a case for being the go-to in that sense. It’s a must-watch for the genre and is the prime example of mainstream critics getting things wrong.

Here’s a glimpse of the magic (“The gunshot holds no fear!“).

Fun Fact: Robert De Niro was originally offered the role of Creasy and Gene Hackman was considered. Marlon Brando, when he was alive, was the original choice for Rayburn. Christopher Walken was originally chosen to play Jordan Kalfus, but he wanted to distance himself from playing bad guys, so he suggested Rayburn.

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