Friday, 7 August 2009

Firestorm



FIRESTORM (1998)

Directed by: Dean Semler
Written by: Chris Soth
Starring: Howie Long, Scott Glenn, William Forsythe & Suzy Amis

Cliffhanger with fire as for former NFL star Howie Long makes a bid to become an action star. About as clichéd and ridiculous as Hollywood action movies come, Firestorm is more a guilty pleasure than a good film. Long is smokejumper Jesse Graves who just happens to be the best at putting out forest fires. Lucky for him as someone has set off the mother of all fires which itself is really a smokescreen for some convicts, led by Forsythe, to escape. Long then finds himself battling the raging fire and violent criminals and pushing pretty much every action cliché to its limits.



Technically, Firestorm shows were Hollywood can be an advantage in action movie terms. Yeah, the CGI effects don’t hold up (this movie is over ten years old already) but the practical effects and stunt staging is still very impressive. The actors often feel as if they really are in the middle of a huge fire and the look and feel of the film has a sort of slick gritty sheen. The action scenes are quite effective, if suffering from being cut a little two fast. There is a cool chase featuring a motorcycle, a suburban and a novel use of a chainsaw. Long handles the action well, has solid support from the “he’s-so-obviously-in-on-it” Scott Glen, Suzy Amis is underused and best of all is William Forsythe. His character is nothing new in terms of movie villains but Forsythe manages to put some extra bite and menace into an otherwise cookie cutter villain.



Alas, logic takes a long walk of a short pier, the dialogue becomes more trite as the film goes along and all character development is reduced to one sentence exchanges before someone is killed off. At a lean, mean 80 or so minutes Firestorm rarely stops for character and dialogue and has a certain choppy feel to it, as though a lot has been cut out in order to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Rumour has it original screenwriter Graham Yost (Speed, Broken Arrow) had his name removed from the credits as the script was changed so much from his original vision. This seems to ring true, as Firestorm often feels like a hatchet job and couldn’t be more clichéd if they threw in a scene where one character all of a sudden, and handily, knows how to fix the hero’s broken leg: oh wait, they did.

Yet, if you are in an undemanding mood and aren’t too worried about proving yourself to the more respected cinema crowd or need lots of characterization with every film you watch, then Firestorm provides the requisite, easy going thrills and is the perfect guilty pleasure for when you just want something dumb to watch.

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