Firestorm

Wow! What a great movie – er, made-for-TV movie. It’s now nine days into 1998 and I already have a film for an entry into my Top 10 Worst Films list.

I like Howie Long, he’s a good guy, very down to earth looking and congenial. His debut acting stint, starring opposite John Travolta and Christian Slater, in John Woo’s Broken Arrow was a good one. But, it was good for the fact that Long was not the lead in the film.

Firestorm starts out with an action sequence that overuses just about every camera technique known to movie making. From the slow-mo shots of our heroes running directly towards the camera to the quick zooms to a little-girl-in-distress. The opening sequence also uses some of the most hokey cliches; a lost child in a burning house, the parents outside trying to get in to save the child, cars in a fire with the requisite firefighter yelling, “Run, there’s gas in the cars! They’re gonna blow!”, and the all annoying slow-mo tight shots of happy firefighters jumping up and down in joy as their teammates come walking out of the blaze with a child in their hands (don’t forget the crescendo of music to follow this.) Whew, and that was just the first ten minutes of the film.

Jesse Graves (Howie Long) is a smokejumper – one of only a few hundred firefighters trained in the specialty of jumping into a blaze to save stranded campers and such. What happens next takes a leap of believability; a big-time robbery prisoner (William Forsythe) breaks out of jail with the help of four other prisoners, their plan brings them to an arson site where they, as the big-time robbery guy tells the others, “Will become Canadian firefighters.”

The rest of the film is spent following Graves, the bad guys, and the hostage (Suzy Amis) around. The action is cheezy, uninspired, and plain uninteresting. The action includes Howie in a fire, Howie in a building on fire, Howie on a bike in a fire, Howie on a bike in a fire throwing a chainsaw, and so on. The special effects for the fire are some of the worst I’ve seen, especially during the climax.

Firestorm marks the first film directed by Oscar winning cinematographer Dean Semler (Dances With Wolves). Unlike another cinematographer turned director, Jan De Bont (Speed, Twister), Semler does not have the eye for action. The action is flat and bland in this film. His cinematographer, Stephen F. Windor, tries to spice up the action with strange camera angles and techinques, but none of these work. And worst yet all this “unique” camera work only worsens the action. The camera work suffers from the dreaded shakey-makes-it-urgent camera technique. Also used are a lot of extreme close-ups of things that could have been shot wider and the out-of-focus-makes-it-look-cool shots.

Scott Glenn and William Forsythe are the two A-list actors in the film and both do horribly. Glenn seems to be walking through this part since he’s already done it once before (hint, hint.) Forsythe opens the film with a somewhat familiar imitation of the Sean Connery character, John Mason, from The Rock.

I’m glad that the film was just a few minutes under 90 minutes long. If it had lasted any longer I would have walked out. Firestorm is a bad film that could have past as a made-for-TV movie, but unfortunately it made it to the big screen. Skip this film. Personally, I enjoyed the trailers more than I did the film. (For those of you wondering, the there was a new and longer trailer for Michael Bay’s Armageddon, one for Chow Yun-Fat’s US debut film The Replacement Killers, and one for The X-Files.)


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