In Man on Fire, Denzel Washington is Creasy, a troubled ex-Special Forces operative who travels to Mexico City to meet up with an old friend called Rayburn (Christopher Walken). The two men share memories of a violent past from which Rayburn seems to have escaped by settling into a new life. Creasy, however, has turned to drink to erase the memories and, as we discover later, has become suicidal. Do you think God will ever forgives us for what weve done? he asks Rayburn and, although the details of their past are never clarified, what it involved becomes obvious when circumstances later force Creasy to go back to what he does best - assassination.
A spate of kidnappings has forced many of the citys wealthy families to hire bodyguards for their children and Rayburn lands Creasy an interview with industrialist, Samuel Ramos (Marc Anthony) and his American wife, Lisa (Radha Mitchell) who hire him to protect their young daughter, Pita (Dakota Fanning).
The brooding Creasy attempts to distance himself from Pita who is keen to be his friend, but as he becomes more involved in her life, he grows closer to her. The films first hour develops their relationship, setting up Creasy emotionally for the intense drama that follows. While waiting for Pita as she has a piano lesson, he is badly wounded in a shootout and lies helpless on the street while his young charge is snatched away. Later, an attempt to deliver the ransom money goes wrong and the nephew of the person behind the kidnapping is killed. In retaliation, Pita is also reportedly murdered.
When Creasy - who is accused of killing two cops in the shootout - recovers from his wound, Man on Fire switches to a full-on story of revenge. He goes on a bloody, no-stops-barred rampage to track down and dispose of all those involved in Pitas abduction. As Rayburn explains it - Creasys art is death; hes about to paint his masterpiece. Some sideline help comes from investigator, Miguel Manzano (Giancarlo Giannini) and a reporter, Mariana (Rachel Ticotin) who has been crusading against the corruption that has infected her city.
Before Creasy closes in on the person known as The Voice - the mastermind behind the kidnappings - there are some unexpected revelations to come in this fiery, fast-paced thriller.