"Smoke Jumpers Battle Big Blazes"
What a joy it is to watch a straightforward man versus nature drama. In 1990’s cynical Hollywood filmmaking, man versus nature offers maybe the best genre in which to highlight the gallantry of dramatic heroes who fight in life-or-death contests with straightforward courage without moral compromise. FIRESTORM features just such a dramatic hero, which pits a charismatic fire captain, Jesse (honored ex-LA Raider defensive lineman, Howie Long), against a raging forest fire and a sociopathic convict, Shaye (William Forsythe), who plots to escape prison through the chaos created by the fire. In a fine performance, Scott Glenn (former fire captain Wynt) returns to the specialized fire fighting-acting genre from his good performance in 1991’s BACKDRAFT.
Firestorm is about an elite group of forest firefighters, called smoke jumpers, who do the opposite of what anyone with commonsense would do when confronted by a monstrous forest fire: they parachute into a fire. In Firestorm’s prestory, smoke jumpers Jesse and Monica (Christianne Hirt) parachute into a big blaze, which threatens a family’s cabin. A young girl is trapped in the house. In a heroic rescue, Jesse and Fire Captain Wynt fell a tree, then run to the house and pull out the girl seconds before a huge flaming tree falls on its roof. An exploding house trailer cripples Wynt’s leg, and he hobbles for the rest of the movie.
A helicopter patrol sights a fire burning in a sector of the woods on routine patrol. Newly installed Fire Captain Jesse suggests that a county crew contain the blaze from the roads because it is not big enough to involve the smoke jumpers. The sheriff goes to the Wyoming State Penitentiary to pick out a fire crew. What the sheriff doesn’t know is that sociopathic murderer Shaye has killed and impersonated one of the convicts on fire duty. At the fire, Shaye and his henchmen kill the guards, lock the other convicts into their bus and escape into the woods. Meanwhile, Jennifer (Suzy Amis) a lone woman ornithologist takes pictures of birds at the wrong place at the wrong time. Her bird stops chirping, and she looks up to see a massive fire bearing down on her in the forest. She panics, only to encounter Shaye and his band of phony firefighters.
Deciding to light backfires to deprive the first fire of needed oxygen, Jesse parachutes from the helicopter when he sees the four convicts striding through the woods. He initially believes their fake Canadian accents but realizes they are impostors when one attacks him with an ax in a supply store. He fights and defeats Karge and rescues Jennifer from gun-toting Shaye, who pursues Jesse and Jennifer, even as he systematically executes his fellow criminals. The climax of the movie happens at a lake, where Jesse and Wynt take on Shaye in underwater combat as a giant firestorm rages overhead.
The main deficiency in FIRESTORM is the lack of development of the daily lives of the smoke jumpers. Do they spend half of the weekdays lounging in the fire station, as do urban firefighters? Do they come home to their spouses at night? Do they have time to take their children to school? How do they hear of the latest impending fire emergency, and how do they get there? FIRESTORM writer Chris Soth seems so preoccupied with fashioning a good, classically structured movie (which he succeeded in doing) that he gives short shrift to the interesting, mundane details of the main characters’ lives. After all, this is supposed to be an excursion into another world for the audience, most of whom have never even heard of smoke jumpers.
With spectacular cinematography and gripping, intense performances from the entire cast, including BACKDRAFT veteran Scott Glen, Firestorm keeps the audience’s attention riveted on the action, and it showcases Howie Long’s huge biceps and charismatic presence throughout the picture. Long’s performance as the gentle giant good guy firefighter seems to be a pertinent launch point for a promising acting career. Is Howie Long the next Arnold Schwarzenegger? After Firestorm, the answer could be “yes”.
(Re, B, LL, VVV, M) Redemptive worldview with biblical & heroic elements; 6 obscenities & 13 profanities; extensive violence, including man cuts man's throat, men shoot & kill men with guns, man hits man with shovel, man hits man with rifle butt, man attacks man with ax, man fights man with fists, man pushes man over cliff, man throws ax at man, & man's head burned in a fire; no sex; no nudity; and, arson.
In FIRESTORM, Fire Captain Jesse (Howie Long) battles a giant forest fire and murderous ex-convict, Shaye (William Forsythe), who is intent on using the chaos of a firestorm to escape from prison. Jesse fights and defeats Shaye's henchman and rescues lone woman ornithologist, Jennifer (Suzy Amis), who was taking pictures of birds in the wrong place at the wrong time. As Jesse and Jennifer run from the rapidly advancing forest fire, Shaye pursues them and systematically executes his fellow criminals. The climax of the movie occurs at a lake, where former Fire Captain Wynt (Scott Glenn) arrives to help Jesse take on Shaye in underwater combat as a giant firestorm rages overhead.
Containing extensive violence, but also redemptive themes, FIRESTORM is an intense, exciting excursion into the deep forests of the Pacific Northwest where an elite band of firefighters engage in heroic combat with giant fires and cold-blooded killers. With spectacular cinematography and gripping, intense performances from the entire cast, including BACKDRAFT veteran Scott Glenn, Firestorm keeps the audience's attention riveted on the action, and it showcases Howie Long's charismatic presence throughout the picture. Is Howie Long the next Arnold Schwarzenegger? After his performance in Firestorm, the answer to that question could be "yes".