Fire With Fire Review

Film Still
  • Fire With Fire film still


Cheapjack hokem in which an irate fireman learns to get handy with his firearms.

Sniper cam! Slow motion motel sex! Unexpected taser attacks! These are just a few of the exotic pleasures on offer in David Barrett's cheap'n'nasty revenge fantasy, Fire With Fire.

To say the film is an emotional void is a slight against emotional voids. Regardless, this violent, grubby little thriller delivers just about enough old school, direct-to-VHS carnage to justify a cheeky rental. And, of course, there's that title. The title is nothing short of genius. The best thing about the whole shebang, in fact. To wit...

The plot concerns the tribulations of fireman Josh Duhamel (yes, a FIREman) who witnesses the brutal murder of a local shopkeeper at the hands of the neighbourhood's local Nazi gangster bastard played by Vincent D'Onofrio. As the only surviving witness to this crime, Duhamel dives headlong into police protection, but he's forced to take the law into his own hands (!) when the past catches up with him (!) and threatens the person he loves the most (!). 

That's right, he's a fireman. Who learns to fire guns. Against bad guys who ALSO fire guns. He's literally a fireman...fighting fire...WITH FIRE. Towards the end of the film there's a bit where this literally happens. It is, naturally, terrible.

Duhamel is the star of films as charming and diverse as Transformers, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Sadly, Fire With Fire will do little to enhance his leading man credentials. He's a functional presence in a thankless role that requires his character to transform from a likeable everyman to a merciless angel of vengeance at the drop of a hat. One minute he's a sympathetic victim of his gangland tormentors, the next he's shooting bad guys in the head at point blank range. The problem is he's less Tango & Cash, more Abercrombie & Fitch, and it doesn't really work.

If anything, D'Onofrio fares even worse. The Full Metal Jacket star is hammy in the extreme, securing his status as 2013's least pleasant cinematic presence (see also: Jennifer Lynch's oppressive shocker Chained). His scumbag schtick is entirely one note. The man's a panto villain.

Even Bruce bloody Willis pops up as (who knew?!) a cocky but likeable detective, slumming it in the style of some guy pretending to be Bruce Willis, such as his want in these bleak, post-A Good Day To Die Hard times. Would it kill him to at least pretend he's having fun? And what exactly is a proper star like Willis doing saying yes to this kind of bilge in the first place? Just how much can one man hate his agent?

Mediocrity, then, rules. The casting of Vinnie Jones as lead henchman (what is this? 2002?) pretty much seals its fate. For all the film's sub-Tony Scott bravado, Fire With Fire is the kind of lousy, two-bit potboiler best experienced on a late night Netflix binge with a bottle of tequilla and a portion of chicken dippers.

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