The first “Man on Fire” was released in 1987, the film did not start great and didn’t age well and the main lead was Scott Glenn. The second Man on Fire was released in 2004 and was directed by Tony Scott with the main lead, Denzel Washington who played John W. Creasy, a former CIA operative and former Force Recon Marine officer and now a mercenary. Tony Scott was actually supposed to direct the first movie but the producers refused because Tony Scott was not a well known man.
In the establishment shot, viewer saw wide-panning, aerial shots of Mexico City shot, then a credit of a kidnapping in every 60 minute, followed by a young man in his twenties being kidnap, then a negotiation scene and another scene of an elderly with his shirt off; wave his shirt as instructed by the kidnappers as an identity. Audience now saw a kidnap victim kneeling in the street with his eyes blindfolded.
Twenty years later, they gave him a shot at Man on Fire. They thought it was better that this film was directed by him at this time because he was older and more experienced. Tony Scott battled his demons in Man on Fire it is obvious he tried to put all what it takes and effort into making of this film. But the question in mind of the viewer is whether the film adaptation abandoned from its original source because of new cultural or historical contexts it portrayed (Leitch 2008). In a way the writer can say yes; in the sense that, the film was meant to be set in Italy but was moved to Mexico due to the high rate of Kidnapping in Mexico City. Tony Scott exploits writing in the screen to communicate well with the viewer; There is one kidnapping every 60 minutes in Latin America and 70% do not survive, also to inform the audience regarding the border between America and Mexico City.
Creasy (main character) was based on the bestselling 1980 thriller book with the same name. Creasy, a military operative who went from an alcoholic burnout to a bodyguard who goes after the men responsible for kidnapping the child he was hired to protect. Christopher Walken plays his best friend, Rayburn and the little girl left in the protection of Creasy was played by Dakota Fanning, she played as Lupita ‘Pita’ Ramos. Also in the film were Mickey Rourke, Radha Mitchell, Marc Anthony and Giancarlo Giannini.
Everyone in the film were on ‘fire’, hence the title of the film. The script wasn’t perfect, if you look closely, between the explosions, the second half is practically perforated. It doesn’t always make sense, it is possible Tony Scott knew that. Life is chaos and he took that chaos and painted with it. The audience argued that, The Man on Fire film he delivered is flawed but made its debut by doubling the budget at the box office and an award-winning film with great entertainment. In other word, it can be argue that Man on fire film is politically motivated; the producers are trying to expose the corruption amongst the government officials of both country, especially the police.
The visual styles of Man on Fire gave the film more suspense and was easy to attract the eye. Tony was using this to build character for example, the dizzy, disorienting jump’s cut edits and double exposures was a way to put us inside Creasy’s head, the colours were grainy, washed out, sometimes even muted out. Tony was 60 years old in 2004, but he wasn’t done learning , experimenting. He’d reused and refined this style in subsequent films, Domino and Deja Vu. Roger Ebert said Scott patched up the plot holes from the first movie with “an excess of styles”. The styles is laid on thick, but it’s masterfully done.
When it comes to gender representation women and children were under used, for instance, Lisa appearances or dialogues were minimal compared to that of Pita. Also Sister Anna have less role or dialogues delivered. The viewer noticed Mariana, the report to Diario Reforma appear few more than Lisa Ramos. The camera focused more on Creasy and Pita. In a nutshell the viewer believes Man on fire is about a man seeking for redemption and a daughter looking for fatherly love.
Tony Scott employed some semiotic aspect to introduced Man on fire to the audience as action, adventure, drama, mystery and suspense genre; the first few jump’s cut shows the audience should expect violence; like the scene where police searches some people on the street with guns pointed on their face, followed by prostitutes approaching Creasy car. The convoy of a black jeeps on a country side is a symbol that makes the viewer heart thundering.
In the film Denzel is disturbed, worn out, frustrated and tired of everything. This isn’t the cocky Denzel of Training Day filled with menace, regret and anger. In this film Denzel plays a broken man who has given up on everything, and turns all his frustration to a bottle of Jack Daniel’s he hides around his room. At the pre-production stage, Tony Scott cast Denzel Washington because he understood he was bored and frustrated of acting, so Scott used this opportunity to bring him on board and the audience can identified with the frustration in Denzel action from the first half of the film. Creasy tried to commit suicide in the film but the bullet failed. Tony Scott was not subtle, but he always delivered.
While the suspense begins to build throughout the film, making viewer wait. Scott tried to lured his audience to fall in love with Creasy and Pita. Creasy plays the father the little girl had always wanted as her actual father gave her little attention and soon Pita becomes a lifeline for a man who has nothing to live for. During the making of the film Dakota and Denzel were close. At 9 years old, Dakota was already a veteran of more than a dozen films and TV shows. In one scene at the dinner table, she and Creasy played a game trying to make the other smile. They ad-libbed much of it and the two pros were going toe to toe. It’s magic and it’s not in the script, as it is unusual or not possible to script magic. Agreeably, Tony Scott was conscious of that and chose to rolled the camera.
Further into the movie Creasy is smiling, happy, dressing better and putting effort into his actions. He looks well, like he was slowly starting to heal, it was clear fatherhood suited him.
Every day Creasy would train Pita for her big swim meet and she ends up winning. In the movie the chief nun at Pita’s school tells Creasy, “You’re her father today”. Creasy is happy, he’s different, he puts his Jack Daniel’s down and picks up his Bible.
But that isn’t that kind of movie, every smile is weighted, most is forced and viewer knew what was coming before them, audience had to expected the unexpected. The next day after leaving the piano practice, Creasy takes five bullets trying to stop Pita from being kidnap, he fails. He kills four of the kidnappers that includes policemen, but it’s still not enough and soon enough she’s gone. This entire scene plays with audience mind, certain points of the scene was in slow motion and there were double exposures putting viewer at the edge of the seat eager to know what is going to happen. Creasy barely survives. The money drop goes wrong and the kidnappers kill Pita. The pace of the film is different everything has changed, ruthless Denzel is here.
Audience criticism is focus at the second half of Man on Fire. It was believed to be too violent and it’s gratuitous, but Tony Scott could argue with the audience right away by saying, “The violence isn’t gratuitous…I’m always thinking if anybody touched my kids, what would I do? Man on Fire is not a violent film, Creasy was fighting the wrong and wanted justice for the little girl he spent days, even weeks with.
Denzel full of bullets, anger and menace ready to kill any evil man or woman that comes in his way. He gives a shopping list to Walken (plays his best friend).
Creasy makes sure his friends knows he’s ready for war. Creasy was on a rage, he cuts off fingers, he stalks around a nightclub with a shotgun. He puts C4 in a plastic capsule, the drug used to ferry product ad he sticks it up the ass of a high-ranking police official. You can hear the viewer erupt when Denzel walks away from the scene with an explosion in the background.
Creasy was mad as soon as he discovers the whole thing was a set up. Mickey Rourke , who played a lawyer to Samuel Ramos in the film and Pita’s father conspired to have her kidnapped so he could pay off business debts by fraudulently collecting insurance money. She was only supposed to be gone a couple of days and be returned after the ransom was paid. Creasy leaves Pita’s father in the room with a pistol which works in his favour when he used the gun to commit suicide. The main reason Pita’s father hired an alcoholic like Creasy is because he was supposed to be easy to deal with, he was supposed to mess up and get killed, that is what they expected from him. But Creasy was dead on the inside long ago and drowned all his sorrows with a bottle of alcohol. Then Pita gave him life, and they took that life away from him.
The ending of the film is the quietest moment. After Creasy made his way through Mexico City, he kidnaps the brother of the ringleader. This man, only knows Creasy as a voice on the phone and he is scared. He offers an exchange, Creasy’s life for Pita’s, this is where everyone sighs with relief as the find out Pita is still alive. Creasy of course, agrees. He is bleeding out and picks up another bullet, capturing the brother.
Creasy drives to a bridge and staggering across it, worn out, tired almost dying and Pita is on the other side racing towards him. They hold each other tightly in their arms and cry. Creasy tells Pita he can’t come with her, they confess their love to each other and say their goodbyes. Creasy gets into a car with the kidnappers and he bleeds out as they drive away.
The ending was supposed to be much louder. Originally, Creasy arrives at the kidnappers compound, meets the voice, smiles and explodes. Everyone dies. But Tony Scott didn’t want Creasy going out like that, he got Pita back. The killing was done and he could finally rest. The end credits was giving to the people of Mexico City, because for the last two hours, twenty six minute, the only people viewer come across in the Mexico capital is; drug addicts, thugs, prostitute, enforcers and other low life entities.
Eight years later Tony Scott committed suicide, jumping off the side of a bridge., Scott’s death was the subject of much speculation. Apparently, he left a note for his family. His work speaks for him.
The audience found the film soundtrack composed by Harry Gregson-Williams had been adopted by some television commercial for Omega watches in 2012 to 2013. Officially released in July 27, 2004.
The critic also found 17 continuity mistake from the film.
Leitch, T (2008) ‘Adaptation Studies at the Crossroads’in Adaptation 1(1), pp.63-77