The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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--Matt

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ablaze (2001)

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Being that we're making a final push to get the rest of Michael Dudikoff's DTV oeuvre up at the DTVC, I knew I'd have to do this bad boy sooner or later. Let's get through it together, like we're peeling off a Band-Aid, all at once.

Ablaze is a convoluted mess of a plot about a fireman who does police work with Ice-T and works in a fire station with Michael Dudikoff. Either that, or it's about Tom Arnold, who owns both an oil refinery and a hospital that makes patients pay for play (this film might have been ten years before its time in that aspect!). In a stroke of what would've been irony had it not been in a contrived movie, Arnold's refinery has a massive explosion, causing an enormous disaster in the city, and his hospital is the nearest source of emergency care, causing altruistic doctor Amanda Pays to dump Arnold's bottom line based health care in favor of humanitarian medicine. Then something called a firestorm threatens the hospital, and Dudikoff has to bring the firemen in to save them.

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On the sleeve the disc came in from Netflix, the synopsis read like this:
A by-the-book investigation into a hotel fire generates quickly into a mad rush to find a deadly arsonist as killer infernos begin raging all over the city. The cops soon discover that someone is creating deliberate death traps -- picture-perfect fires for a serial arsonist turned serial killer! Heading up the investigation is none other than Tom Arnold. (That's like tossing gasoline on a smoking ember, isn't it?)
Had that been the actual movie, it might have been great, and in the first ten minutes, where there's this too sweet chase with Ice-T and our fireman hero going after some serial arsonist, it looked like that's what we were getting. But that wasn't the movie, and instead we got a convoluted disaster pic with no identity, manufactured tension that often made no sense, and a great cast that was essentially wasted-- and when I say wasted, I mean they weren't in the movie nearly enough. Dudikoff, Ice-T, Tom Arnold, and William Zabka were all wasted, receiving little to less screen time. Amanda Pays had a little more to do, but it wasn't enough to save this from leaving me thinking "what's the point?"

I think Soldier Boyz thinks this was the dumbest movie Michael Dudikoff has ever done. A former special forces soldier recruiting kids from a juvenile prison to rescue a girl from Vietnam thinks Ablaze was ludicrous. Usually I applaud Dudikoff for playing it straight and lending bad films like these credibility, but in the case of Ablaze, it ended up being a bad look for him. This was not a movie that needed credibility, it didn't need humoring, it needed someone on the other side sharing in every moment that left us nonplussed, not pretending that we shouldn't be stunned or not knowing how to respond. Tom Arnold, for instance, did do that for us. In every scene he was in, you could see him mailing it in with fourth class postage, and that's what this film was worthy of.

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I shouldn't be so harsh on Ablaze, because in watching it again yesterday for the blog, I could see where it went wrong. It was this constant adding of pieces, tacking things on, trying to fix things, but only making them worse. It was someone thinking he or she had a concept for a disaster movie, but not seeing that it was an idea sautéed in wrong sauce. The thing that I think was unforgivable, though, was gathering this huge cast and pretty much having them there for their names on the box.

I was joking with a buddy the other day about how growing up, we all feared that going into high school, we would get picked on by kids who were like William Zabka. Of course, we grew into teenagers, actually went to high school, and learned there were no William Zabkas, and the only fears we had were of the teachers catching us making a dime-sack transaction in the bathroom. Still, Zabka to this day resonates as one of the ultimate 80s baddies. I mean, we almost expected to see his face during the big Darth Vader reveal at the end of Return of the Jedi. In Ablaze, he does play a bad guy, Tom Arnold's right-hand man, but he's as wasted as everyone else, getting killed off early on.

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As much as this movie was bad, it was also weird, but weird in a bad way. One of the weirdest was the running story of an aging starlet in purple, snake skin print leather pants, who was acting as a nurse or something. She helps out a kid, talks to our hero, then, inexplicably, disguises herself as a patient and walks out into the inferno between the hospital and the waiting firefighters, and gets herself burned to death. None of it made any sense, and just added to my disdain for the film-- though ladies, you shouldn't let this paragraph deter you from wearing purple leather pants if you're ever so inclined.

This is available on DVD through Netflix, or to buy in a lot of bargain bins (I found it at Big Lots, though of course I passed on it). Seeing all the names will probably be enticing. Don't let them fool you, this is a 90 minute painfest with little to redeem it. If you're a major chase scene connoisseur, you may want it for the opening scene, which was legitimately good, otherwise, stay away.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0217979/

4 comments:

  1. Great B-movie cast! That is unfortunate that they are all wasted. If only Tom Arnold was the actual bad guy! That would be amazing!

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  2. Yeah this is definitely Dudikoff's worst film, I too loved the opening chase and wished Ice and Arnold weren't so underused, some intersting info-this film used a ton of stock footage from City On Fire as well as real life footage from some news report.

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  3. I forgot to mention how much of this film is stock footage. Like 90 percent of it is either stock footage, stuntmen on fire, or this storyline about a pregnant girl giving birth. Total waste of space.

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  4. This movie has to be the worst movie I have ever seen. I have bought a DVD copy of this film and found it uninteresting.

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