Twitter Plot Summary: A fireman is put into witness protection when a white supremacist bumps off a black shopkeeper. Mr Fireman goes postal when shiz gets real.
Director: David Barrett
Key Cast: Josh Duhamel, Bruce Willis, Rosario Dawson, Vincent D’onofrio, 50 Cent, Julian McMahon, Vinnie Jones, Kevin Dunn.
Five Point Summary:
1. No way is that the guy who played Edgar in Men in Black…
2. Kevin Dunn, what the smurf happened to you?
3. “He’s a tough kid.” Er, Josh Duhamel is, like, 40.
4. Yeah, he just so happens to carry his fireman gear with him everywhere.
5. So, Bruce Willis… did he really need to be in this?
What happens when a white supremacist goes into a shop run by a black man? That’s the basic concept that kicks off Fire With Fire, as Vincent D’Onofrio’s thoroughly unpleasant David Hagan, with two obligatory heavies in tow, nips into a shop to demand protection money, and it just so happens that Josh Duhamel’s Jeremy Coleman is in there shopping. And yes, Vincent D’Onofrio is the guy who played Edgar (the bug man) in Men in Black. Jeremy is forced to the ground and watches as Hagan pops a cap or three in the shopkeeper’s sun and then the shopkeeper. In time honoured tradition Hagan then leaves Jeremy’s fate in the hands of his goons (Vinnie Jones playing Vinnie Jones, and some guy with a beard playing Some Guy With A Beard). Naturally, Jeremy escapes and thus, the Plot Proper doth begin.
And the plot really doth begin as the opening credits roll, 15 minutes into the story. This was a nice touch – the credits occur as Jeremy’s identity is changed over a number of computer displays and he is sent into witness protection. It was nice to see a film that was in no rush to jump into the credits, it gave the opening a touch more gravitas. Only a touch, mind. With very few exceptions this is a run of the mill revenge flick.
With that in mind it’s surprising that so many big names said yes to appearing in this. From the headlining trio of Josh Duhamel, Rosario Dawson and Bruce Freakin’ Willis, you might expect it to be seven shades of awesome. Except maybe for Josh Duhamel. Bruce Willis’ character could have been played by anyone – it’s like he had a spare few days between making GI Joe Retaliation and A Good Day To Die Hard and this was what he did. He has one standout scene in a face-off with Hagan, however as he’s the cop trying to take him down, it doesn’t make that much sense. The argument would be that Willis needs warrants, proof of crimes committed etc in order to do so, but even taking that into account, walking into the lion’s den, as it were, is an incredibly silly thing to do. It’s safe to assume that much of the rest of the main cast did this as a stop-gap between bigger projects, it doesn’t look like they spent a huge amount of time on shooting the thing.
Running at just shy of 100 minutes including credits, it feels like 15-20 pages of relevant story or linking narrative has been cut out. Once Duhamel goes on the run it starts jumping around, seemingly randomly, from scene to scene and with very loose connecting tissue between each scene. Many action films work best when clocking in around the 2 hour mark, which would have been of benefit here. There are also surprisingly few twists and turns. There are a number of moments where you expect characters to betray one another, for there to be a mole within the police department, but none of that plays out. It’s as simple as A to B to C, brief sojourn at D, then onto the finale. Right at the beginning, after we discover that Jeremy is a crack shot with a gun, Rosario Dawson is shot by assassin/hitman Julian McMahon (playing completely against type and not doing particularly well with the role). The implication is that she’s shot in the head and killed, but alas no – she lives, twas but a scratch. If the character had died then there might have been some impetus to the second half of the film, and a surprise death that would have echoes of the mid-film switch in Psycho. But obviously nowhere near as good as that film.
And talking of the script, it’s so cliche you know full well that Duhamel’s fireman skills will come into play by the film’s end, and lo and behold they do. There’s a nice build-up in the first 30 minutes that soon degrades into silliness. Most of the script is littered with characters shouting “Jeremy!” If I had a pound for every time somebody said this… well, I’d probably have about £15. As the story plods along, ticking off every revenge flick trope as we go, it turns out that Hagan is Mr Indestructable (watch the final act, you’ll get it), and Jeremy is averse to actually hurting people – he throws up more times than Regan does in The Exorcist, but perhaps not quite as voluminously.
Directorially there are some nice flourishes from David Barrett. A shootout between Duhamel, Dawson and a couple of assassin types sees the camera following the bullet a few times. It’s something a little different for an action film and would have benefitted from having more of these little moments as the rest of the direction comes across very much as being by the books and quite generic. For a director who has worked mainly in television then the reasons for this become clear. More interestingly is that Barrett appears to be more well known for his stunt work on a number of big films. With this background a bit more would be expected from the action sequences, and there really aren’t many of them, but no. It’s safe territory from start to finish.
It’s hard to recommend the film on any basis – the action’s relatively plain, the cast sleepwalk through most of the film, and the story itself doesn’t really engage. A note to all involved – must try harder.
Favourite scene: Vinnie Jones getting to fight for a couple of minutes. You know how that’s going to end.
Quote: “To Hell with witness protection. You’re gonna need protection from me.”
Silly Moment: *Spoilers* Hagan takes an axe to the chest. And that just makes him angry.