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Review Man on Fire (1987): Adequate but doesn't come close to the Tony Scott remake!

genre: action, crime, drama, thriller

Originally Tony Scott was to direct this one but according to wikipedia price became an issue and got replaced by French director √Člie Chouraqui. In another article, I read somewhere that they thought Tony Scott wasn't accomplished enough to handle this project. Whatever the true reason was, we all know how Scott showed and schooled them with his remake. Since his Man of Fire (2004) is magnificent.

I knew that there was another movie called Man of Fire but was never sure if that title was related to the remake until I looked it up very recently. Why I didn't do it long before? I don't know really. All this time I thought it was going to be your typical Eighties B grade flick that requires a certain mindset and mood to enjoy. Now having seen it I don't think I am that far off. However it's quite decent. First of all this one seems to be a little more close to the source material (the novel written by Philip Nicholson under pseudonym A. J. Quinnell) but like any film adaptation some liberties have been taken.  For example Scott Glenn's Creasy is less disillusioned and broken than Creasy in the book or Denzel Washington's Creasy. Because of this his transformation from the cold and business like bodyguard to the warm and loving friend to Samantha (the kid) has less impact. Truth be told I found Samantha a little annoying and was less likable. Jade Malle while not super bad obviously is no match for Dakota Fanning. Although Scott Glenn manages to compensate this. He is the one who sells the friendship between them. I didn't expect Joe Pesci to be in this but there he was but I hate to say this it doesn't matter much. Pesci's role is completely pointless and useless. He is only there to show that Creasy has friends and that is it. But he is not the only one that is wasted in his role. Jonathan Pryce, Brooke Adams, Paul Shenar (Alejandro Sosa in Scarface) and Danny Aiello all fine and exceptional actors who have very little to do and could have easily been replaced by lesser actors and you would not have known the difference. I think director Chouraqui should have at least shown more of the dynamics between Samantha and her parents so that it becomes a little clearer why she wants to be friends with Creasy.

So like in the remake we see this friendship develop and then how events turn real nasty when Samantha gets kidnapped. Creasy is devastated but determined to get the girl back and deals with everyone who is involved. What should have been the most exciting part in the movie turns out to be the least compelling and interesting. This could almost be a plead in favour of flash and style. Without it the little action there is simply did not connect with me. And I was really ready for Glenn to show everyone how it's done. I had hoped to see some sparks of his Adcox character in Backdraft or Stick from Daredevil shine through somehow. The more dark and relentless Scott Glenn. But no, he remains too calm and composed. Now I know some of you might say that is just him being professional. Except for the fact that this mission is very personal. I would have liked it better had he been more angry and bloodthirsty. After Creasy has dealt with some bad guys he finally ends up where he needs to be and then you get one of the weirdest and disjointed scenes ever (compared to the rest of the film I mean). Suddenly out of the blue the director has decided to be super stylish and atmospheric and it doesn't make any sense. Click on the Show / Hide button underneath review for a description of that scene.

It felt like a scene was missing or cut to make it more artistic. And it misses the mark completely. Far too dark and eerie to a moment that is supposed to be touching. The ending is sort of satisfying but it lacked emotion. If it weren't for the dialogue I would not have known how to feel about it. Although there might be a reason for this. Click on the Show / Hide button underneath review if you want to know the reason.

√Člie Chouraqui clearly is out of his depth. I could have forgiven him for not knowing how to direct action but failing to capitalize on the relationship he had build up quite well just points out his incompetence. It's the most essential and beautiful part of the story. To then go all art house and pretentious on us like he did only causes confusion and detachment. If he wanted to make that scene have more impact he should have shown us more. Why not show the aftermath properly? Sometimes you have to be clear and upfront about these horrific events and the consequences. Hit people hard so that we can learn from it and better ourselves and others. 

So is this worth your time? If you are looking for cool action and more emotion then this won't be for you. You will be better of watching the Tony Scott remake with Denzel Washington. Honestly I think this is only worth it because of Scott Glenn. Otherwise I would not even have bothered. 

Check out my review for the remake:

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Anonymous said...

Personally I love both . They are two separate movies although the same … so yeah they’ll have different reviews but both were great movies. Lighten Up Man …

chrichtonsworld.com said...

It's called criticism. Or do you think I lose sleep over it. I can assure you that I don't. But for most people time is very precious and if I am going to invest time into a film it better be worth it. That is one of the main reasons why I write reviews. And I usually try to pinpoint THE issues that could hinder someone's viewing experience.




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