Anchor Bay // 1993 // 87 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // January 17th, 2011
Fight fire with fire.
Poor Sandra Bullock. She's had a rough year, and she doesn't need this. She doesn't need the Roger Corman-produced Fire on the Amazon -- one of her earliest and most embarrassing movies -- to resurface on Blu-ray.
Sure, 2009 was a banner year for Sandy Bullock (she's Sandy to me). She had two films (The Proposal and The Blind Side) gross over $100 million, and for a victory lap picked up the Best Actress Oscar for her work in the latter film. Then, just days later, the rug was pulled out when she learned that her husband, biker scumbag Jesse James, was cheating on her with a tattooed, Nazi-worshippping petri dish. Bullock subsequently went pretty much into hiding, making very few public appearances, doing very little press and appearing in no movies in 2010. Now, Anchor Bay comes along and dredges up the Ghost of Craig Sheffer past to remind her of a time when she was just a struggling actress willing to take a lead role in a terrible movie because, hey, it's a lead role and a pay check.
Of course, the only reason anyone is still talking about or seeking out Fire on the Amazon is because of its sex scene. Yes, this is the movie in which Sandra Bullock almost-doesn't-really appear naked; she's strategically covered (more strategically than you might even realize if you know any behind-the-scenes stories) and openly miserable, likely recoiling from co-star Craig Sheffer's gross sex-face mugging. Seriously, watch him in the scene. It's some of the funniest acting you'll ever see. But it all only compounds the problem for Sandra Bullock, who already has to relive a movie I'm sure she's not entirely proud of now that it's on Blu-ray but who also now has to have the fact that she was once mostly naked in a pretty graphic sex scene all in service of a terrible movie. She's had a bad year. She doesn't need this.
She stars in Fire on the Amazon as Alyssa Rothman, a rainforest preservationist who teams up with photographer R.J. O'Brien (Craig Sheffer, Some Kind of Wonderful) to solve the murder of a man who leads a group called The Rubber Tappers, who are devoted to protecting the rainforest and the people of Bolivia. That's pretty much the movie; they travel down the Amazon and people try to kill them and there's some fire and Craig Sheffer overacts and makes gross sex faces and what? The movie is about solving the murder of one guy? And Craig Sheffer is the lead, not Sandra Bullock?
The movie that Fire on the Amazon most reminds me of is Martin Campbell's Beyond Borders, and that's not a comparison I make favorably. In many ways, they're the same movie (with the gender roles reversed), though Fire on the Amazon is far cheaper and not as well made. It's an attempt to make a socially-conscious romance that has very little idea how to convey any of its socially conscious ideas. Or how to be romantic. Although Roger Corman is famous for exploiting certain elements in his films -- notably violence and sex -- it's a very different beast when you're trying to exploit environmental concerns and the plight of a depressed people. It just doesn't have quite the same goofiness and bounce as fast cars and faster women.
Craig Sheffer is downright creepy in the lead, playing a character that changes wildly from scene to scene. His ponytailed performance is all over the place and very, very gross. Sandra Bullock is dependably cute but pretty bland (and not particularly invested in what she's doing, suggesting that she at least knew what movie she was in), possessing none of the charm or likability that would eventually make her a movie star. She registers better in crap like Love Potion No. 9, which at least affords her the opportunity to be sweet and adorable. Fire on the Amazon just allows her the chance to be sweat on and rubbed by Craig Sheffer. If that sounds good to you, your name must be Craig Sheffer.
Fire on the Amazon arrives on Blu-ray (whether the world is asking for it or not) in a presentation that, while flawed, is as good as the movie is ever going to look. The 1.78:1, 1080p widescreen image is uneven, with fluctuating amounts of grain and noise, occasional softness and muted colors. None of these are particularly terrible, though, because the movie actually looks pretty good considering its age and budget. The lossless TruHD audio track is pretty much a waste -- not just because Fire on the Amazon doesn't really warrant such treatment, but because it fails to take advantage of the format's capabilities, too. Pretty much everything is up front and center, and the track is flat and uninvolving overall. As much as I want to hold that against the disc, it's oddly well suited for the film. The only bonus feature included is the movie's original trailer, perhaps because Anchor Bay realized that no one wants more of a bad thing.
Cheer up, Sandy B. Terrible as it may be, no one is holding Fire on the Amazon against you (I'm more inclined to be upset with her for The Blind Side, but, in the words of Pearl Harbor, then all this happened). You are still one of our most reliably adorable and likable movie stars, and your bad year has only earned you more public goodwill. I didn't even think that was possible. Everyone has to get their start, and if it wasn't for Fire on the Amazon, we might never had gotten your performances in Demolition Man and Speed and While You Were Sleeping and 28 Days and even Miss Congeniality. Or course, we might also not have Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous. I won't hold that against you, either. Jesse James is a douche.
Give Sandy a break.
Review content copyright © 2011 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Top 20 Review Debuts: #10
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1993
MPAA Rating: Not Rated