January 11, 1998 -- "Firestorm" is not the movie that establishes Howie Long as the next Sylvester Stallone. It is just a run-of-the-mill action movie. Howie will need something better than this to compete with the big boys.
Long (who appeared in "Broken Arrow"), a former football player, stars as smokejumper Jesse Graves in this movie about a forest fire used as an escape ploy for some convicts. The story is beyond far-fetched, but is mildly entertaining.
Graves heads up a team of elite smokejumpers who parachute into forest fires to rescue campers and such from the flames. The movie starts out as a training film, but that's just a ruse. It soon turns into a caper, as a forest fire is deliberately set as part of an escape attempt by a band of convicts.
Graves spots the convicts, disguised as Canadian firefighters, and parachutes into the fire area to rescue them and a woman named Jennifer (Suzy Amis "Titanic") they picked up along the way. He and Jennifer end up being chased by the convicts through the wilderness.
In most of these kinds of films, the wily hero picks off the villains one by one. This time the villains save the hero some trouble by reducing their own numbers. The convict leader, Randy Earl Shaye (William Forsythe "Things to do in Denver When You're Dead") kills his companions so he doesn't have to share his hidden money with them. Shaye isn't particularly sneaky about the killings, but the remaining convicts remain incredibly gullible until the end.
The film also fails to explain how a bunch of city-slicker hoods manage to successfully track a couple of supposedly savvy backwoods types like Graves and Jennifer (she is a bird-watcher with lots of survival skills) through heavy timber. Although Graves is a fire fighter, he seems to spend a lot more time building fires than he does putting them out.
There are the usual action scenes. Fist fights, gunplay, car chases, motorcycle jumping, explosions and lots of fires. There is also an axe-throwing scene. Forsythe makes a very grim villain, and Amis is very spunky. Long seems a bit uncomfortable as the hero, but he shows promise. Veteran actor Scott Glenn ("Courage Under Fire") does his usual fine job playing an older firefighter, Wynt Perkins. This film rates a C.
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