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Review of Firefight


by David Bjerre, September 2004



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Updated:
07 June 2006

INTRO

There’s just something about firefighter movies. Perhaps it’s a guy thing, but I find these kind of films irresistible. The flames, the heroics, the struggle between man and nature, all seen from the safety of my living room couch. What’s not to like?

 , kb

STORY

Our story opens in the midst of an aggressive forest fire. A money transport and its two drivers - the weakling Dean, and the resourceful Indian Raja - are caught in the blaze. All hope seems lost, when suddenly a firefighter helicopter drops from the sky, dumps water on the site and rescues the two drivers.

The rescuing firefighters are Jonas (Steve Bacic), an appealing hardworking young man, and his old dog of a partner George (Nick Mancuso). Jonas has his own problems. Being a voluntary firefighter doesn’t exactly put food on the table, and the small diner he runs with his wife is doing less than well. The creditors want their money now!

Later the same night Jonas runs into Dean on a local bar. Dean’s having a drink with Rachel, the gorgeous radio-operator who assisted in the rescue, who also happens to be Jonas’ former girlfriend. She’s still very much interested in him, but her possessive boyfriend, the gangster Wolf (Stephen Baldwin) is insanely jealous, and threatens any man who approaches her.

Taking about the rescue, Dean speculates what would have happen, if they simply took a little bit of money from the transport, and claimed it perished in the flames? Rachel is quick to run with the idea, but Jonas puts an end to the discussion. He’s got responsibilities now, and he’s put his wild days behind him.

Next morning Jonas goes to the bank to get an extension on his loan, thinking that he may have some leeway - after all he did save their money during the fire, but the bank flatly denies. The money, he’s told, was insured, so why did he even bother?

Frustrated and hurt, Jonas makes a desperate decision. He contacts Rachel, Dean and George, and suggests that they steal the money from the next transport.

The idea is sound. With some careful planning they should be able to get away with the money without hurting anybody, and rely on the fire to erase all the evidence. But fire is a dangerous play pet, impossible to predict and never completely under control. The four would-be thieves will have to be more than a little lucky to get away with the heist. Then things take a turn for the worse, when Wolf begins to take an interest in Rachel's extracurricular activities.

 , kb
THE FILM

“Do what you can with what you got”. I can’t remember whether this is a quote from a film, or something my mother taught me, but it’s good advice either way, and one that “Firefight” seems to have taken to heart.

“Firefight” is a TV-movie* and as such it’s plagued by the same problems many other TV-movies struggle with: Lack of funds, short schedule - resulting in a simple and plain shooting style - and a cast comprised mostly of unknowns. So naturally it pales when it’s compared to “Godfather” or “Citizen Kane”. Most film would. I think it’s important to view every film based on its own merits, within its own context. Keeping “Firefight’s” limitations in mind, it’s quite successful.

With today's digital effect possibilities, a lot can be accomplished with very little money, so even if “Firefight” can’t stand side by side with the great Hollywood films like “Backdraft” or “Towering Inferno”, it still holds up on its own.

Wall-to-wall flames in every shot is not an option, but the film uses it’s limited digital effect budget very well, with some very decent fire effects and a few selected show-stopping moments. A chase on beach buggies, through the flaming forrest, for example, is the film’s best action scene, and a spectacular sight.

Even though the story is familiar - a heist with a distraction has been done before - the actual setting, a forrest fire, seems like a fresh idea. The film has a good sense of pacing, you won’t get a chance to nod off, and good overall entertainment value.

 , kb

CHARACTERS

Forget what the cover says. Steve Bacic is the real lead in the story, and he even gets one of those classic hero introductions, where he saves the day before we even get to see his face. With his rugged good looks Bacic is a scene-stealer, and I completely understand why he’s a hit with the ladiez (damn him).

The Jonas character could easily have become a dull blue eyed hero, but faced with realistic temptations - the possibility of cheating on his wife, and the heist - Bacic manages to keep Jonas real and down to earth, without losing his heroic edge.

Stephen Baldwin plays Wolf, doing his worst impression of a serious actor, in a spectacular ineffective bad guy role. But then again he’s up against the true villain.... the flames. What happened to this guy? He was so cool in “Usual Suspects”, but now he seems to have lost all ability to act convincingly.

Most of the other characters are pretty insignificant, but kudos must go to the filmmakers for avoiding the big breasted porn-model look-alike cliché, and casting a regular girl to play Rachel. Sonya Salomaa is beautiful in a natural way and does a good job as Bacic’s conflicted partner in crime.

 , kb

WRAP-UP

Every good action film must test the limits of its own reality in the final act, and “Firefight” is no different. Things get a little preposterous in the climatic struggle, but it’s all good fun, so just sit back and enjoy. Don’t think too much about it.

TV-movies in general present us with a “take it or leave it” choice. Most of these films would never have been made, if it wasn’t for the TV realm. Keeping that in mind “Firefight” is not at all bad. Given the aforementioned choice, I’d definitely take it.

* Note: Is this case “TV-movie” refers to any movie intended for a TV-screening, including cable movies, and direct-to-video movies.






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