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In Mexico City, criminal gangs have been kidnapping rich people and their families for the ransom money. On the advice of his lawyer, Mexican businessman Samuel Ramos, like other wealthy people, hires a bodyguard to protect his nine-year-old daughter Lupita "Pita" Ramos, and to be able to renew the family's ransom insurance. The head of an executive security firm, Paul Rayburn suggests that Ramos hire Rayburn's old CIA buddy John Creasy.
However, Creasy has since become uninterested in life. He is burned out from all the death and horror and has taken to alcoholism to ease the burden. Creasy is not interested in bodyguard work and even less with the youngster, but he needs a job. Creasy's initial impatience slowly fades as he finds himself opening up to the child.
Then Lupita gets kidnapped.
Her ransom does not go as planned.
Based on A.J. Quinnel's "Man on Fire" novel, it also was already adapted as film in 1987.
- Abusive Parents: Lupita's dad, Samuel Ramos (Ettore Balletto in the novel) who arranged for his daughter to get kidnapped so that he scam insurance money. Justified in his mind since he thought there'd be no harm to Lupita, but still crosses the Moral Event Horizon.
- Adaptation Displacement: Not many ever speak about the novel or earlier film.
- Ass Shove: Creasy's trick with the C4.
- Anti-Hero: John Creasy, Type IV.
- As the Good Book Says...: Creasy and Sister Anna, the Headmistress of Pita's school.
- The Atoner: Creasy arguably. Lampshaded when he asks "Do you think God'll forgive us for what we've done?".
- Badass:And how!
- Bad Cop, Incompetent Cop: Miguel Manzano, the only effective police officer willing to help Creasy, is basically a pervert.
- Because You Were Nice to Me: One of the reasons why Creasy loves Pita.
Rayburn: She showed him it was OK to live again.
- Bittersweet Ending: The movie: After Creasy hunts down and kills everyone who profited from Pita's kidnapping save for the Big Bad, he finds out that Pita is alive. Creasy knowingly trades his life for hers, and shares a heartbreaking moment with her before she is reunited with her mother. Creasy dies soon after, though so does the Big Bad responsible for Pita's kidnapping, as well as many others.
- Bilingual Dialogue: Lots. Paired off with those nifty, dynamic subs that fly in the direction of the person saying them. Justified since Creasy himself can speak Spanish and mostly upper class and police Creasy deals with, so most people will at least understand English.
- Blood in The Water: For some reason, we keep seeing flashback-like scenes of Creasy jumping into a pool, blood coming out of his wounds.
- Justified; he's doing so to sterilize his still-unhealed wounds. It's also to remind us that he's slowly bleeding to death.
- Career Killer: Rayburn says "A man can be an artist... in anything, food, whatever. It depends on how good he is at it. Creasey's art is death. He's about to paint his masterpiece."
- Cheerful Child: Lupita
- Chekhov's Bullet
- Cold-Blooded Torture: "I will take your family apart, piece by piece. Do you hear me? PIECE BY PIECE!"
- Complete Monster: "La Hermandad" members who has no exitation to kidnap small children and only God knows what do they do to them (the children).
- Death by Adaptation: Creasy, who officially "dies" in the book but is revealed to have faked his death, and gone on to have other adventures.
- Determinator: The reason the movie is named as such. It's so bad/good that Interpol doesn't even want to interfere with him.
- Earn Your Bittersweet Ending: The novel, not the movie. Pinta Balletto, the novel's little girl character, was raped and killed, but Creasy made sure every one that profited from her tragic end paid for it. He regains some semblance of humanity and ends up with a love interest, too.
- Genki Girl: Lupita, and adorably so.
- Grumpy Bear: Creasy. It's even lampshaded by Lupita.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: "Okay, I'm gonna cut your fingers until you talk,and using... this to stop the bleeding"
- "Last wish? I wish...you had...more time."
- Leave Behind a Pistol: Creasy does this with a slight variation: the bullet in the gun is the one that misfired earlier when he tried to kill himself. This time, it works.
- No Endor Holocaust: Creasy enters a nice elderly couple's apartment to attack a motorcade from above with a RPG launcher. The backblast of using an RPG like this in an enclosed room would have ruined Gramma & Grampa's day. Based on the rest of the movie, Creasy probably would have lived.
- Noodle Incident: The large, ugly scar on the back of Creasy's hand goes unexplained, even when Pita pointedly asks about it.
- Not So Stoic: Kidnappers act all tough, relying on fear tactics to achieve their goals, but once they, or their loved ones, are at the hands of Creasy, they're reduced to a quivering mass of flesh.
- Omniscient Morality License: Subverted a little. "Do you think God'll forgive us for what we've done?" "No."
- Which is an interesting take on the concept. If he's already irredeemable, there's no reason to have any moral compunction left.
"Forgiveness is between them and God. It's my job to arrange the meeting."
- Pragmatic Adaptation: The original novel is worse than the film.
WolfBear: Goes straight from Shell Shocked Senior into One-Man Army with Omniscient Morality License.
- And it is awesome.
Rayburn: And they're gonna wish they never touched a hair on her head.
- Pay Evil Unto Evil: What Creasy does to the kidnappers.
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Several
See you in the next life...I can guarentee you won't be lonely.
- After interrogating the police chief and putting a C4 bomb up his ass, he asks for a last wish:
- After finding out that the father was in cahoots with the kidnapping to cash in on the abduction insurance:
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Holy shit. He takes out a secret society of corrupt policemen, the kidnapping organization that took Lupita, and HER OWN DAD (although that was more of an assisted suicide).
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Creasy. He was actually Driven to Suicide but the gun didn't fire when he pulled the trigger.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Happens a lot throughout the film, especially jarring to hear Mickey, by Toni Basil while a man has body parts cut off.
- Spared By Adaptation: Pinta. Her counterpart in the book on which the film is based accidentally dies when her kidnapping is botched.
- Tear Jerker: The ending. Creasy literally and knowingly trades his life for Lupita's, telling her briefly it's time for her go home, and that he's "going home, too". The movie ends with his obituary.
- Tranquil Fury: In the wake of Pita's abduction, Creasy's Roaring Rampage of Revenge contains elements of this as he calmly tortures and kills the various members of La Hermandad in turn. It's only when he's talking to the Voice over the phone does he finally lose his composure and threatens the Voice's family, as he's been shot again, and knows that he's running out of time.
- Truth in Television: Mexico City has a really high kidnapping rate per capita and this is with 95% of 'em going unreported to the authorities. The fact that the Mexican police are known for being corrupt doesn't help.
- Same goes for Creasy's torture techniques. Kidnappers often do this to their victims and send the lopped off ears/fingers to their relatives, along with the warning that they should hurry up and recover what's left of 'em.
- There's a point where Creasy is practicing his draw, and he draws his gun close to the body before pushing it out. This is actually a technique used by bodyguards and in close-quarter combat.