Firestorm is the kind of picture which it would be nice to be able to
encourage with a sympathetic review. It is the story of heroic men—in this
case the legendary “smoke jumpers” who parachute into forest fires to help put
them out—fighting against both nature and bad guys and prevailing against
both. Nor is there any of the deliberate knowingness, the ironic self-reference
that has been such a blight on the industry since the days of Mr. Indiana Jones.
But the picture shows us that it is not enough to be good and not enough to be
earnest. You also have to get real, and I’m sorry to have to report that the
acting skills of Howie Long, the former Oakland Raiders linebacker, in the
leading role are not equal to this demand. Nor are those of the writer, Chris
Soth, or the director, Dean Semler.

Like Titanic, this is essentially an old-fashioned B picture with an A
budget, a movie which, if it is worth seeing at all, is worth seeing only for
the pictures and the special effects. The plot is too preposterous for words,
the characters are uniformly uninteresting and, in spite of being ostensibly
traditionalist, it can’t seem to do without some of the most tired
clichés of our cinematic times. Here, for instance, you will find a
criminal mastermind of exemplary ruthlessness (William Forsythe) but limited
marksmanship who could have been bought off the peg from central casting. Here
is also a motorcycle chase that, if it was not ripped off from the latest Bond
film, must have had a common ancestor with it. Most annoying to me was the
completely unnecessary as well as unbelievable betrayal of his comrades by one
of the good guys. I guess the filmmakers thought this would make them look more
hip and sophisticated.

Above all there is a nature girl (Suzy Amis) and bird watcher
(“ornithologist” she insists) who, naturally, turns out to be skilled in
survival techniques (taught to her by her Marine father) and improvised
orthopedic medicine as well as being built like a supermodel. Rather quaintly
she is not only endangered by the forest fire (through having, apparently, no
sense of smell) but also falls into the clutches of the bad guy for all the
world like an old-fashioned damsel in distress. And not even once does the film
show her felling men twice her size with a single blow of her nose. Is this
enough to recommend the picture? Alas no. This is strictly one for those, ages
approximately 10-16, who would use the word “cool” to describe images of one
man’s thrusting another man’s head through the bottom of an upturned boat and
roasting it in a sudden blast of flame.

Come to think of it, that is rather cool, isn’t it?

Discover more from James Bowman

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

Similar Posts