Action, Crime, Police

Man on Fire (1987)

Comments Off on Man on Fire (1987) 09 January 2017


Studio: Kino

Theatrical Release: October 9, 1987

Blu Ray Release: November 15, 2016

Director: Elie Chouraqui

Review by Travis North

Man on Fire is one of those movies that I always saw the video box in the action section of the local VHS rental store. It looked kind of cool, with a bloodied, sun-glassed Scott Glenn ready to blow someone away. Since Glenn wasn’t really your big name 80s actions star, I never was interested enough to rent it. I’m almost glad I did not, since I’m sure I would have hated it at the time. This is not your typical Arnold/Sly/Chuck shoot ‘em up, but that doesn’t necessarily make it shit.

Man on Fire starts up a bit weird right away, letting you know you aren’t in for some mindless Golan Globus fun. It begins all in slow motion, with a very soft focus, and artistic drapes flapping in the breeze, finally settling on Glenn getting zipped into a body bag with him explaining some of what the hell is going on in voiceover. Given this Sunset Boulevard type beginning, you know this is going to be a bit more artistic than usual. It turns out Glenn is a burnt out CIA spook looking to get away from his never ending string of violent assignments. His buddy Joe Pesci sets him up with a nice easy job babysitting the daughter of a rich Italian couple at their villa. Unfortunately she is eventually kidnapped for ransom by the mafia, led by a super hammy Danny Aiello. Glenn uses his skills to blast his way through scumbags to get her back.

It’s a straightforward action movie plot, but very European in the execution. This is pretty slow moving, with lots of bonding time between Glenn and the girl before you get to the action. I’m sure Tony Scott skipped the long sections about her training for the track team in his remake (he initially wanted to direct the novel but had to wait until he was established enough in Hollywood to do so). I also wonder if the remake had as many slurs as this did, since one bad guy is gay and enjoys cruising the local porn theater. The one surprise I had was that it didn’t have your typical super downbeat European ending.

I wanted to like this more, but it just takes too long to get moving and by then it’s too little too late. As mentioned earlier, the picture is very soft, which results in just an ok picture. Not razor sharp Blu-ray quality, but I don’t imagine the director intended it to be. There is a really nice score by John Scott that perfectly fits the tone of the film (and was partially recycled in Die Hard). Marginally recommended for any fans of Scott Glenn or those interested in doing a compare/contrast double feature with the remake.

Movie Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Blu Ray Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

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