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Case Number 00069

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Firestorm (1998)

Fox // 1998 // 99 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Sean Fitzgibbons (Retired) // July 19th, 1999

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All Rise...

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Firestorm (2003) (published June 26th, 2008) and Firestorm (2013) (Blu-ray) (published September 25th, 2014) are also available.

The Charge

The heat is on…and time is running out!

Opening Statement

Howie Long falls a bit short when trying to carry his own film but Fox delivers a really good looking and sounding DVD.

The Evidence

When I stumbled across Firestorm I did a double take. "Oh, that movie with Howie Long!" I said to myself. Howie Long was fresh off a good supporting performance in Broken Arrow with John Travolta and Fox tried to play their hand at making Howie Long an action movie star. A former football player (don't ask me for what team because I have no idea) and now football commentator for Fox Sports, Howie Long carries the presence and physique of an action star; unfortunately his poor acting prevents Long from having any real star quality, besides in a supporting sense.

Firestorm wasn't a film I would consider going to see in the theaters but something good to watch on HBO, however it doesn't seem to have come to cable yet (or at least I missed it). Thankfully I was able to see Firestorm first on DVD which presents the film in its best possible light.

Bringing a new platform to action films, Firestorm centers around an elite group of firefighters known as smokejumpers who parachute into the heart of forest fires to help save those trapped inside the fire. The film opens up with a great introduction to the main characters and their job as smokejumpers when they enter a fire to help a family trapped in a cabin. The rescue operation leaves fire Chief Perkins (Scott Glenn) with a leg injury which prevents him from continuing his job as a smokejumper. Jesse Graves (Howie Long) takes over as Chief and soon finds himself escorting Canadian firefighters out of the path of a raging forest fire. The Canadian firefighters are actually escaped convicts in disguise, led by the psychotic killer Randall Alexander Shaye (William Forsythe), who have taken naturalist Jennifer (Suzy Amis) hostage as their "insurance plan." Once Jesse learns of the convicts' plans and rescues Jennifer, the convicts resolve to kill the duo before they can get word out of their escape plan.

The story is really just dressing to the true star of Firestorm which is the forest fire. Brought to life by great audio and visual effects, the fire takes control of the film in many scenes. Presented in 2.35:1 widescreen, the video transfer (distributed over two layers) is near perfect. Colors for the fire are dead on and the special effects look outstanding on this transfer. The audio, presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, accompanies the film's raging infernos. Combined, the audio and video will make you sweat and even believe, if just for a brief moment, that there is a real forest fire surrounding you.

Heck, if you pick up Firestorm you also get a "bonus." That's right, Fox spent a little extra time on this disc to provide its consumers with a theatrical trailer. You gotta love that folks!

The Rebuttal Witnesses

We're going to have to be a little interactive here for a moment, so bear with me. Scroll back to the top of the page and look at the cover of Firestorm again.

Back already? Okay, now what struck you about that cover? Could it be the "deer caught in the headlights" look on Howie Long's face? That caught my eye and I don't think it could be a better example of Howie's poor acting in this film. Howie seems like a good guy and all, but he should leave the acting to the actors. As I said before, I loved him in Broken Arrow and he is good in supporting roles, but he simply can't carry a film on his own. While Howie struggles to carry this film you can't help but laugh in certain instances (especially when he starts yelling at his smokejumper trainees).

I'm not going to pick at the story too much; this is an action film after all. Having smokejumpers as heroes in an action film was a good idea but is just poorly executed in Firestorm. As the story progresses things just get worse and worse, and Howie Long's acting doesn't help to improve the situation. The "surprise" ending was really no surprise to me as it is exactly what I expected following the opening sequence.

At this point I guess I should berate Fox, yet again. The video and audio on this disc really is top-notch but, as always, an anamorphic transfer would be preferable. Unless you missed my sarcasm above, there are next to no extra features on this disc. Now I've said this before in other reviews, and I'll keep on saying it until things change, but I wouldn't begrudge Fox too much if they only lowered the price on their discs! What they're presenting is substandard of most consumer expectation so by charging a premium rate they are just asking to be targeted for complaints.

Fox has just under 6% market share in the DVD arena and until they lower their prices, or at least start providing more for their high rates, they will never gain a substantial foothold in the DVD market. This is truly a shame because Fox has the rights to some really good films.

Closing Statement

Firestorm has a good set-up but a poor follow-through, causing the film to ultimately fall flat. Fox provides us with a great audio and video transfer but no extra content to make the disc worth its high price. If nothing else, Firestorm is worth a rental for an entertaining hour and a half.

The Verdict

Howie Long is sentence to a life time term at the Fox Sports desk, never to return to feature films unless in a supporting role. The film is acquitted but Fox must continue its term in prison until its next review by the parole board.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 94
Audio: 96
Extras: 10
Acting: 60
Story: 70
Judgment: 66

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Action

Distinguishing Marks

• Theatrical Trailer


• IMDb

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