Written by Old Bluffer 26th Jan 2009
Creasy is an "Ex-CIA with a Haunted Past" archetype, hired after he has pretty much given up on life, as the personal bodyguard to the young daughter of a wealthy Mexican businessman.
Creasy soons starts to become exceptionally fond of the young girl "Pita" [which is surprising as she is played by Dakota Fanning, but isn't quite such a hateful whelp in this film (although she still does a bit of screaming)]. In fact, it is fair to say that she gives him a reason to care about life again.
So, when Pita is abducted and he is shot down trying to protect her, he is understandably rather peeved. And once the ransom negotiations go sour and Pita is killed in revenge, his only reason for living is to exact bloody revenge on anybody involved with the kidnapping.
As Christopher Walken declaims ominously: "A man can be an artist... in anything, food, whatever. It depends on how good he is at it. Creasy's art is death... ...he's about to paint his masterpiece."
This turns out to be right on the button, and several of Creasy's brutal and torturous killings deserve to be written up here in their own right.
It is only at the end of his killing spree, when he has tracked down the mastermind behind the abduction, a gangster known as "The Voice", that things get (a bit) more complicated. Pita's father is shown to be an accomplice in the kidnapping, hoping to profit from the ransom. Pita's mother is suitably distraught at this news, and Creasy, in an unusual act of mercy simply gives the miserable fellow a gun with which to off himself.
"Pita" is then revealed to still be alive, as The Voice would view it as poor business practise to kill off a financial asset. The final scene involves a hostage exchange, with Creasy and Pita's mum giving The Voice back his brother, who Creasy has taken prisoner.
Unfortunately Creasy is badly shot up by this point, and has also agreed that he also would be exchanged in return for Pita. This will mean honour is satisfied for The Voice, and he will probably leave Pita and her family alone. It is worth noting that Creasy does have a fair bit to answer for from the viewpoint of the gangsters, as he has all but wiped out their organisation and mutilated The Voice's brother by blasting off all the fingers of one of his hands.
The hostage exchange actually goes off quite smoothly, and after telling a tearful Pita that he loves her, Creasy proves a man of his word, silently walking over to the kidnappers, in the certain knowledge that all he faces is a very painful death.
His wounds are severe though, and the strong implication is that he will be dead before he can be tortured - the last we see of him is him losing hold of the treasured St Jude pendant that Pita bought him with her own money, St Jude being the patron saint of lost causes.
Old Bluffer's Thoughts
This is a fairly typical bloody revenge story, with probably rather too much gratuitous torture. However, it gets away with it due to a stellar performance by Denzel Washington. He is really quite a likeable lead, and a very eerie torturer once he gets going. He rarely even raises his voice, which is all the more creepy...
The rest of the cast are also pretty good, and the script keeps everything moving along at a sufficient pace. So, what could have been a throwaway Chuck Norris type movie is actually elevated to something more classy (admittedly losing a bit of fun in the process!).
Old Bluffer's Trivia Note
In my opinion, it is possible that the BBC TV series "Spooks" ripped off elements of the plot of Man on Fire for their Series 3 episode 8 episode. If they didn't, it's a bit of a coincidence (abduction planned by one parent, it goes wrong, child dies, other parent rather upset etc)