I recently discovered that a pawn shop not too far from me sells their DVDs for 2 bucks a piece and their selection is insane, to the point where I’ve never bothered looking since I’ve never wanted to dig through all of that madness. However, when I knew I had this marathon coming up I figured I would look around and see what they had. Man, I stocked up on some weird, random shit and you’re going to be seeing it pop up quite frequently as we progress through this. You should consider yourselves lucky because without those cheap DVD’s you would never get to read this review of a 90’s action movie where former NFL player Howie Long fights William Forsythe in the midst of a giant forest fire.
You know, they don’t do enough of the whole “hey let’s try and make a movie star out of this pro athlete” thing anymore. Ok yeah it happens a loooooot with wrestlers but that at least makes sense since so much of what they do already involves putting on a show. But nobody ever looks at football or basketball players now and says “put them in a god damn action movie right now!” In the 90’s you had Dennis Rodman in Double Team (god that movie is so stupid and amazing), Brian Bosworth in Stone Cold, all sorts of ridiculous and awful shit with Shaquille O’Neal, and I’m sure the list goes on. Sure most of these movies are just the worst but they can also be fascinating to watch as a product of their time and a sad reminder that these movies would never be made now.Firestorm is exactly that – not very good but kinda interesting sort of but not really.
Howie Long, often looking more confused and indifferent than intense and action hero-y, plays Jesse, a firefighter who is actually some super special awesome smoke jumper firefighter based on an opening text scrawl that I don’t really remember the details of now. After being introduced in the opening scene saving a little girl from an intense forest fire, he spends the majority of the movie not doing much of anything until he ends up in a situation many of us often find ourselves in; having to rescue a girl from William Forsythe in the middle of a huge forest fire that he set in order to escape from prison. Forsythe has recruited a few fellow prisoners to help him recover some loot he stashed before he went to jail. They all end up posing as Canadian firefighters in order to make their way to a boat that will take them across the border and all will be well. And yes their idea of being Canadian is to say “eh” and “aboot” a lot because those are the only two things Americans think we do. Eventually Jesse shows up and throws a chainsaw and I don’t know none of it is all that engaging.
Of course what makes this movie at least somewhat unique is the presence of Long, who isn’t so much bad as he is terribly, terribly bland. There is nothing at all engaging about this man as an actor. At least when you’re watching Dennis Rodman in Double Team, his weak acting is assisted by the fact that he’s this giant, goofy looking dude wearing women’s clothing. He is a unique entity at the very least. Long is just borig, delivering his lines in a stiff manner that makes the whole thing seem duller than it already is. Also his character doesn’t really do a whole lot. Sure he fights Forsythe at the end but for the majority of the movie he either isn’t involved in the action at all, or legitimately thinks these guys are Canadian firefighters. He never really gets to fight or participate, with most of the henchmen being wiped out by Forsythe himself. This might be one of the least involved protagonists in action movie history.
The action is pretty mundane, though I will admit some of the forest fire imagery looks far better than I expected since I predicted it would be nothing but terribly outdated CGI. Firestorm is also bizarrely one sided in its R rating, featuring a good amount of cursing but almost zero violence (until near the end where there’s a good piece of business with Forsythe). You have a firefighter as your lead hero, a guy who carries around axes and chainsaws, both items he wields in this movie, and yet he doesn’t really do anything interesting with them except for one slow motion axe throw that I remember from the ending of every single commercial for this movie way back when it came out. It’s actually kind of cool to have a firefighter as the main character instead of your standard cop or FBI agent or whatever so it’s especially disappointing that they don’t really find anything interesting for him to do that takes advantage of that profession.
I should also note that this movie goes out with one of the lamest slapstick gags I have perhaps ever seen. Not that what you just watched was a 90 minute thrill ride that is ruined by a stupid sight gag, but it still felt like a remarkably weak note for the film to go out on.
You know, it hasn’t even been a full 48 hours since I finished watching this movie and I’m sitting here struggling to remember a single damn thing about it. It’s that forgettable. I mean I didn’t hate it while I was watching it and it zips along at a good pace as it’s over in less than 90 minutes. There’s just absolutely nothing here to make me want to recommend it to anyone except the most die-hard Howie Long fans out there and I assume they have already indulged in this one many times as their pickings are quite slim. The forest fire / firefighter angle is something different that they don’t take nearly enough advantage of and Howie Long is such a non-entity that he leaves no impression whatsoever. At least William Forsythe is always fun to watch and the movie has the good sense to give him a whole lot of screen time. Also Long’s face on the DVD cover never fails to make me laugh as I think they wanted him to be looking all intense but he looks like someone wondering who in the room just farted. So yeah, I’m afraid this one just ain’t worth it. Sorry Howie Long devotees, you deserve far better than this.