(France/Italy - 1987)
Directed by Elie Chouraqui. Written by Elie Chouraqui and Sergio Donati. Cast: Scott Glenn, Brooke Adams, Danny Aiello, Joe Pesci, Paul Shenar, Jonathan Pryce, Jade Malle, Laura Morante, Lou Castel, Giancarlo Prati, Alessandro Haber, Franco Trevisi, Piero Vida (R, 92 mins).
A.J. Quinnell's 1980 novel Man on Fire was adapted into a big-budget Denzel Washington-Tony Scott collaboration in 2004, but there was another version prior to that. The 1987, European-made MAN ON FIRE was picked up for US distribution by Tri-Star, but they didn't do much with it, only releasing it in a handful of theaters where it grossed about $500,000 before instantly falling into obscurity. It took two years to surface on US home video, uncommonly long even by 1980s standards, and has never been issued on DVD in the US. These days, it's mainly stumbled upon by insomniacs during occasional 4:30 am HBO airings. But it has acquired a bit of cult following, probably due to its interesting cast, and some consider it superior to the 2004 remake. While the newer version has its problems, mainly Scott's hyperactive, crazed directing techniques, MAN ON FIRE '87 really isn't very good, and is hardly a neglected classic patiently awaiting discovery.
Joe Pesci's hilarious, inexplicable meltdown from 4:22-5:20 in this clip