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  Firestorm Absolutely Flaming
Year: 1998
Director: Dean Semler
Stars: Howie Long, Scott Glenn, William Forsythe, Suzy Amis, Christianne Hirt, Garwin Sanford, Sebastian Spence, Michael Greyeyes, Barry Pepper, Vladimir Kulich, Tom McBeath, Benjamin Ratner, Jonathon Young, Chilton Crane, Robyn Driscoll, Terence Kelly
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: There are men and women who are firefighters in America who earn the name smokejumpers, thanks to their duty to get into the centre of forest fires and help to extinguish them, and Jesse (Howie Long) is one of those. Today he leads his team into danger knowing they are the only chance a group of potential victims have for escaping a terrible fate in the flames, and they do so by skydiving into the heart of the problem to guide the aeroplane with the dampening material to rescue them. But then, panic! A little girl is trapped in a burning house! Can Jesse save her? He fells a tree with a chainsaw which has no effect whatsoever, then advances into the inferno...

Well, it would be a bit of a downer if our hero had not succeeded in saving the moppet, but any thought this introduction had anything to do with the plot of what came after it should be banished from the mind as the action jumps to "One Year Later", prompting suspicion all that business in the opening ten minutes was merely present to pad this out to feature length - it was a shade under ninety minutes as it was. There had been a huge hit for Sylvester Stallone in the nineteen-nineties, and that was Cliffhanger, therefore some film executive evidently had a brainwave: "Cliffhanger was really cold, so how about we remake it as very hot?!" These things write themselves, don't they?

But what about our leading man, who should he be? Throughout the seventies there had been an influx of sportsmen in Hollywood movies, usually for action roles though some of the biggest stars of the era had begun playing American football, and that was how Long was introduced to the silver screen in the nineties. It had to be observed that wrestling was establishing itself as a popular route for the stars of the mat to make a name for themselves in the movies at the point when Long was chancing it, so he was already looking a little old hat in this endeavour, but he gave it his best shot in what would be his first leading role. That it was also his last should give an indication of his success.

Yes, audiences saw through this derivative Cliffhanger with Fire actioner, and it was not a huge hit, despite director Dean Semler (better known as a cinematographer) boosting Long with a capable supporting cast. He just did not have the charisma to carry a feature, which was presumably why his character was often elbowed out of the way so the villain could take centre stage, and he was a veteran of such roles, William Forsythe playing an escaped convict who happens to be yet another of those psychopathic criminal masterminds who littered nineties thrillers large and small. It was always entertaining to watch him strut his stuff as the baddie, and he didn't disappoint here, though the rest of the film did no matter how many times Semler relied on things blowing up real good to inject some excitement into the proceedings.

However, if Firestorm was not much cop as a serious action effort, then as a comedy it showed more potential. It was not consistently hilarious, but every so often, particularly at the start and at the finale, there were items of ludicrousness that would likely have you hooting with laughter. The rescue of the little girl (identified by her toes) was daft enough, but such instances as Jesse producing a hitherto unnoticed running chainsaw and flinging it at the approaching bad guys from the back of a motorcycle represented quite some feat of the preposterous. Forsythe had a habit of killing off his gang, ostensibly to make him more menacing and avaricious (he wants a stolen fortune all to himself), but also to prevent Long from coming across as less a heroic fireman and more a bloodthirsty vigilante, yet that did not halt the final showdown where as he saves birdwatcher hostage Suzy Amis (no wonder she retired soon after) he does so with one of the most sidesplitting coups de grace you would ever see. You'll still be laughing as the credits roll. Music by J. Peter Robinson.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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