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.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
Fire with Fire (2012)
We conclude Bruce Willis Week with Fire with Fire, something that looked like a bad action film centered on, I think, Josh Duhamel. Bad action can't go wrong, right? Okay, yes, it can, and can go very wrong, but a guy can hope, right? Man, I don't have a good feeling about this...
Fire with Fire has Duhamel as a fire fighter who stops with his buddies at the local convenience store to pick up some things early in the morning after a shift. Unfortunately, he witnesses Aryan Brotherhood crime boss Vincent D'onofrio kill the store owner and his son. Now, in order to testify against D'onofrio, Long Beach PD detective Bruce Willis has him in witness protection in New Orleans, where he meets Rosario Dawson, falls in love, and is almost killed by D'Onofrio's hitman. Though he survives, D'Onofrio lets him know that he'll kill him no matter what, even if he's in jail. Duhamel decides it's time to wage a one-man war on D'Onofrio instead.
I was right not to have a good feeling about this, because it wasn't very good. As is often the case, it was a variety of factors. First off, the ordinary man doing extraordinary things/Hitchcockian regular guy thrust into a horrible situation by being in the wrong place at the wrong time element was diluted immensely by the bad action element, making that aspect not work, and the bad action element come off silly. Furthermore, Duhamel sounds sillier when he yells. There's no getting around that. That hurts especially bad when you're trying to paint him as this average guy doing really bad things to protect the ones he loves, because we have too much stacked against him to ever take him seriously. The icing on the cake was Rosario Dawson's character, who seemed like a tough US Marshall to start, and devolved into classic damsel in distress, complete with the bound and gagged scene, followed by our hero carrying her in his arms across a flaming threshold. It was like just when we thought this couldn't be more sauteed in wrong sauce, it takes it to another level.
Of all the Willis films we've looked at this week (Catch .44 and Lay the Favorite being the other two), I think this is the one where Willis looks the most out of place. Even in a scene with D'Onofrio, who is someone we all consider to be an accomplished actor, Willis was acting on a totally different level. Other than Rosario Dawson, everyone else makes sense in a DTV or TV movie, and even Dawson isn't entirely out of place here, but Willis is definitely major Hollywood star Bruce Willis, and his inclusion makes us wonder what's going on. By the same token, he in no way mails this in, gives us everything, and is as good as you'd want from him. The question is, why are we going here for all that?
The Rosario Dawson part might have been the biggest miss. I wonder if men (and I consider myself among them) don't know how to write a proper female character. Either she's tough, kickass, and gets things done; or she's the damsel in distress. You can't have it both ways, because, no matter what, damsel in distress trumps kick ass. So she's the one teaching Duhamel how to shoot, she's initially the one protecting him, and now she's bound and gagged in D'Onofrio's lair and later getting carried in Duhamel's arms out of a burning building. And this kind of uneven quality in her character hurts Duhamel's that much more, again, further undermining the film. There are plenty of Cynthia Rothrock, Michelle Yeoh, and Pam Grier films to go to if these guys need lessons on writing real, strong female characters.
This film tried to cover all kinds of issues regarding our justice system, from the idea of defense attorneys for criminals, to whether we should just kill guys as bad as D'Onofrio's character as opposed to lock them up. The first problem is that any conversation on these issues is rendered useless by the bad action nature of the film, especially when Duhamel is the one questioning D'Onofrio's defense attorney about the ethics of that job. Between Duhamel and the script, the scene came off like a 7-year-old talking about Lego Ninjago. The second, and much bigger problem, though, is that a movie like this could never go deeper to the real issues at play. For instance, the fact that we incarcerate so many people for nonviolent crimes creates such a massive prison system that allows a character like D'Onofrio's to thrive. Movies like this that try to cover issues like this are always on a slippery slope, and while I'm not saying they shouldn't tackle these issues, if they are, they need to understand how they come off in a bad action context.
There were a lot of other people in this, so we'll see how many we can get through. One of D'Onofrio's goons is played by Vinnie Jones. 50 Cent plays a rival gang leader. Julian McMahon plays D'Onofrio's hitman. Richard Schiff plays D'Onofrio's lawyer. Kevin Dunn plays another US Marshall. James Lesure and Eric Winter play Duhamel's buds. Bonnie Somerville plays Willis's partner. Thom Barry plays the convenience store owner. And finally Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Nnamdi Asomugha play 50 Cent's goons. I gotta say, out of all of those, I loved NFL cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Man, once his career in the NFL is done, I think he's got one here in movies.
And hopefully in better movies. This is ultimately a wash for me, the bad action element is too clumsy, and kills anything else the film is trying to go for. Willis was great, but more than any other Willis DTV flick, he really seems out of his element here. It's not like he's hurting for big picture work either. As of this posting, you can check this out on Netflix Instant, if you're so inclined.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1925431/