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  Firepower Coburn & Co.
Year: 1979
Director: Michael Winner
Stars: Sophia Loren, James Coburn, O.J. Simpson, Eli Wallach, Anthony Franciosa, George Grizzard, Vincent Gardenia, Fred Stuthard, Richard Caldicott, Frank Singuineau, George Touliatos, Hank Garrett, Conrad Roberts, Billy Barty, Jake LaMotta, Victor Mature
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: Adele Tasca (Sophia Loren) dropped her scientist husband off at the lab one morning, and was discussing his upcoming birthday party with his brother when suddenly there was a huge explosion - someone had sent him a letter bomb, and now he was dead. At the funeral, his brother assassinated the Mob boss he thought was responsible, but this was not enough for Adele, and she goes to Frank Hull (Vincent Gardenia), a man with connections, to investigate her husband's link to the pharmaceuticals trade and how he was about to expose mystery millionaire Stegner...

Obviously this is a job for James Coburn (Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson turned it down), and so it is his mercenary Jerry Fanon is recruited by Adele's contacts to get to the bottom of the conundrum over who killed her husband. But don't expect any easy answers, as for the most part Firepower was hopelessly complicated, where you had to take it for granted the characters had some vague idea of what was going on because they sure weren't conveying that to the audience. Well, maybe it wasn't all that bad, but the doublecrossings and new characters introduced every five minutes left you not so much wondering who this Stegner was, but who anybody was.

This being a Michael Winner movie, there was by this stage in his oeuvre the bad taste he manifested as his career progressed, including a curious willingness to portray animal cruelty, which may be why the film hasn't had much exposure in its native United Kingdom. Dogs get shot, there's an unstaged cockfight, and any horses in the vicinity can expect to be tripped up and eating dirt within seconds of their appearance: at least the stuntmen had a choice over whether they were sent flying. Another indication this was a Winner flick was that cast, as he had a knack of securing big names for his productions so the parade of recognisable faces was impressive for the sheer "what are they doing here?" quality of it all.

Not that any of them were at the height of their box office draw, but if you ever wanted to see James Coburn rubbing shoulders with O.J. Simpson and champion boxer Jake LaMotta of Raging Bull fame, then here was your best opportunity. Indeed, star spotting was one of the reasons to watch, as Coburn's charisma was always reliable no matter what he was in (he even plays twins here for no good reason), and his confidence helped what looked like an excuse for the cast to go on holiday to exotic locations; if this was self-indulgence for all concerned, you could vicariously enjoy their good time. Or consider why you didn't simply go on holiday yourself instead of watching these famous folks do the same, apparently oblivious to whether the audience was appreciating this or not.

Firepower was one of British TV mogul Lew Grade's excursions into the big screen, and bore the hallmarks of the all surface flash, no real depth appearance that most of those productions had. If in doubt, film a sundrenched beach or blow something up was the maxim here, and they certainly took that latter choice to heart, particularly for the finale when it seems everything is going up in flames. As for Stegner, Fanon's endeavours to smoke him out into the open lead to tussles with Anthony Franciosa and Eli Wallach, plus in a James Bond aspirant move a game or two in a casino, and even Billy Barty shows up in a serious role, or it would be if there wasn't a strain of lunacy barely kept in check. This was evidently a movie for the dads, but one question which begins to emerge after a while is, "When is Victor Mature going to show up?" He's given the "And..." credit at the start, and you think he might be Stegner, but ridiculously when he does appear it was hardly worth his trouble. They should have put him at the wheel of the bulldozer. Music by Gasto Barbieri.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Michael Winner  (1935 - 2013)

Opinionated British producer-director whose early comedies - You Must Be Joking, The Jokers, I'll Never Forget Whatsisname - were promising enough, but come the seventies he had settled into a pattern of overblown thrillers.

Of these, Death Wish was a huge hit, and Winner directed two similar sequels. Other films included horrors (The Nightcomers, The Sentinel), Westerns (Lawman, Chato's Land), thrillers (Scorpio, Dirty Weekend) and disastrous comedies (Bullseye!). Also a restaurant critic.

 
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