Rated R - Running time: 1:28 - Released 1/9/98

I can just hear the production meeting now: "Hey, Bill, we just figured out how to do these awesome fire effects on the computer. I mean, they really rule. Could we make a movie?"

"Well, I'd love to, Kevin, but it has to have something else besides just fire. It's gotta have a smart, beautiful girl, a macho, good-looking guy, and a villain who's just plain evil. Tell you what: You get the fire effects worked out, and we'll figure out the other junk this afternoon over a beer at Shorty's."

"Okay, but I'm not old enough to drink."

And so Firestorm is born.

Despite passable acting by William Forsythe (the villain who's just plain evil), this film fails to deliver anything of value except fire. Fiery fire. Lots and lots of fiery, fiery fire. Ooooooh.

This terrible screenplay by Chris Soth is about a group of skydiving forest firefighters (called "smoke jumpers") in Wyoming who enlist the aid of several inmates on a work detail from the local prison. But a few of these men, headed by Randy Earl Shaye (Forsythe), overcome and disarm their supervisors and escape. Shaye is one of those doublecross-even-your- friends bad guys. He is at first the leader of a group, but he keeps killing his accomplices. Forsythe, who makes a habit of playing criminals, has done better before, such as his comic character in Raising Arizona. Even his part in Once Upon A Time In America was more three-dimensional than this, although it was not a prominent role in the movie. Former NFL football player Howie Long, meanwhile, acts like . . . well, a former football player. And we all know what happens when football players become actors.

Director Dean Semler was obviously too busy worrying about the many fire scenes to bother with helping his actors, or maybe he just couldn't overcome Soth's ridiculously stereotypical characterizations. There is so much testosterone in the fire station you could cut it with a knife, and their bravado interaction makes one queasy in the stomach.

Thank goodness the good guys are so smart and the bad guys are either so dumb or so driven by evil as to become overconfident. And thank goodness we have those fire effects. Thank you, Kevin.

Copyright 1998 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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