Movie Review By Blue Velvet
Howie Long, FOX TV football commentator and former defensive end extrodinaire,tackles his first lead role in the film "Firestorm." Teamed up with first-time film director Dean Semler and rookie screenwriter Chris Soth, Long's unemotional performance as a heroic firefighter adds very little shimmer in Howie's FOX vehicle to film stardom.
Long indeed looks well cast for the role of a hunky brave soul of a firefighter named Jesse Graves. Graves heads a special team of smokejumpers, those firefighters who jump out of helicopters and into forest fires to save stranded victims. Only the courageous and the quick witted are cut out for this special task force and Graves embraces his calling like a flannel shirt on a lumberjack.
Equally quick witted is convict Randy Shaye, played by the gruff, gravel-voiced William Forsythe. This brutal, calculated killer escapes prison guards while working in a chain-gang assigned to stomping out part of a forest fire. After his predictable escape Shaye poses as a Canadian firefighter, and on his escape route he takes a hostage, a courageous but wayward bird-watcher played by Suzy Amis. Spotting the lost-loooking Shaye from a helicopter, Graves jumps right into the fire-infested forest to be of assistance. Ill-equipped Graves lands into a battlefield of encroaching fires and the armed psychopath, Shaye.
Long's performance is practically robot-driven which is strange considering that Long was one of football's most colorful, intense defensive players ever. Whether he downplayed his charisma under Dean Semler's weak direction or because of Chris Soth's feckless script, Howie shows so little of the strain and vulnerability that makes a hero so revered in the end. Long's unemotional delivery and joe-cool demeanor could serve him better in a villanous role where he doesn't speak.
The pyrotechnics were mediocre at best with the standard explosions of mountain residential gas tanks. Only a hint of computer generated special effects at the end gives audiences a hellfire run for the money. It's as though 20th Century Fox intended Howie's first film to be as unintimidating as possible with creative scenes of destruction bowing second to Howie. Yet "Firestorm" measures up to any solid TV special. So if you're a Howie Long fan you shouldn't hesitate to see this film out of curiosity if not for its hokiness.
© 1998 - Blue Velvet - Air Date: 01/14/98
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