Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Former Los Angeles Raider Howie Long kicked off a three-picture contract with 20th Century Fox with this dopey action movie set in the Wyoming forest, but filmed in Colorado.

Box office for FIRESTORM was dismal (Fox released it in January 1998, so they weren’t giving it much of a chance), and the other two films were never made. Long isn’t bad really, not that Chris Soth’s screenplay gives him much to do. He’s neither good nor bad enough to be interesting, but that isn’t to say he couldn’t have improved in further vehicles. He ended up co-hosting Fox’s NFL studio show for many years.

In FIRESTORM, Long plays Jesse, a “smokejumper:” a firefighter who parachutes into forests to help extinguish major blazes. Psycho prison escapee Randall Shaye (OUT FOR JUSTICE and EXTREME PREJUDICE psycho William Forsythe) engineers a forest fire to cover up his escape from the Wyoming State Penitentiary. Using the $37 million he swiped in an armored train heist four years earlier as bait, he and four fellow inmates disguise themselves as Canadian firemen, using comely birdwatcher Jennifer (Suzy Amis) as a hostage. On their trail is Jesse, who uses his firefighting expertise to prevent their escape.

Similar to Andrew Stone’s 1961 film RING OF FIRE, which starred David Janssen as a small-town cop held hostage in a forest fire by juvenile delinquents led by Frank Gorshin, FIRESTORM is a sumptuous-looking production—no shock there, considering it was the directorial debut of Oscar-winning cinematographer Dean Semler (DANCES WITH WOLVES). The visual effects are mostly good, and the action is decently paced. Fire stunts are always impressive, because of the danger involved, and Semler and his special effects team succeed in making the actors always look like they’re in the middle of it.

But there’s little in FIRESTORM that’s fresh. Forsythe has played this type of heavy too many times to count, and Semler sinks to stealing shots from better movies like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, PSYCHO, and THE RIGHT STUFF. He even casts Scott Glenn in more or less the same role he played in BACKDRAFT. Semler directed one more film, the DTV Steven Seagal vehicle THE PATRIOT, before returning to camerawork.

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