Not the sci-fi clunker of 1995 (with John Savage), this no-brain actioner tries to mix prison breakout and disaster movie genres with the lone-hero thriller format. Howie Long plays firefighter Jesse, who parachutes into a burning forest (they call such daredevils ‘smokejumpers’) on a rescue mission but finds the blaze was started by escaped convicts to cover their trail.
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A female nature photographer (Suzy Amis) complicates the straightforward plot as the villains’ hostage when our clean-cut hero single-handedly tackles the gang…
Firestorm revisits the firefighter-as-hero shtick of Backdraft (1991) – which coincidentally also featured Scott Glenn as a good guy gone bad, and it spotlights the work of those expert pilots who drop chemical suppressants on forest blazes – the specialist job last seen in the background of Spielberg’s Always (1989), while casting Amis as the resourceful heroine taken captive by the bad guys recalls the similar situation of Deadly Pursuit (aka: Shoot To Kill, 1988) – which featured Kirstie Alley. What makes Firestorm entertaining is the scenery-chewing William Forsythe, rather amusing here as the burly armed robber who’s part treacherous criminal mastermind and part badass redneck, although we know he’s doomed while posing as a Canadian firefighter who doesn’t know that brushfire travels uphill. There’s also some gallows humour involving arson, and hatchets dropped from tree height by clumsy trainee smokejumpers, or even thrown like a tomahawk.
The big problem with the film is ex-football star Howie Long, who previously appeared in John Woo’s Broken Arrow (1996), and who lacks enough screen presence to fill a mobile phone cartoon download let alone a widescreen cinema adventure. Oh, I’m sure he’s a nice enough bloke in real life, but as a B-movie tough guy supposedly capable of knocking ten bells out of all and sundry hardened convicts and henchmen, he simply doesn’t make the grade. More like third-rate hamburger than all-American beefcake. In a word, he’s bland. That is not so bad, really, but in a film that desperately needs a Bruce Willis substitute, Mr Long is hardly even a Stallone clone, and seems to have no future as an actor, let alone a Hollywood action star.