Fire With Fire

Directed by David Barrett
Starring Josh Duhamel, Rosario Dawson and Bruce Willis
In UK Cinemas from March 8th, 2013

by Bernie Byrnes

I really enjoyed this film. The premise is familiar enough: firefighter Jeremy Colton (Josh Duhamel) witnesses a murder committed by a Long Beach gang leader (Vincent D’Onofrio) and goes into a protection program so he can testify. When the life of his girlfriend (Rosario Dawson) is threatened, he enlists the help of a rival gang leader (Curtis “50 CENT” Jackson) and takes the law into his own hands.

The satisfactions of the piece are uncomplicated; the film is pretty much the bastard love child of CSI and a Gillett advert. Its primitive: ‘man protect woman, man make fire’ and therein lays its strength. I could make a relatively convincing sounding argument about how it explores post-modern morality, how it raises questions about who is really incarcerated by modern penal systems – if I was still at Uni I would almost certainly have waxed lyrical about how much it adheres to Jungian models of Unification – but I’d be trying too hard and that’s the joy of this film, it doesn’t try too hard. A hot fireman takes his shirt off – a lot, gets hit – a lot and remains a good guy even when he’s being horrible.

For an action film it’s surprisingly feminist (with a small f). Colton is unashamedly a new man – he doesn’t like bullies, won’t be embarrassed by gang members into carrying a bigger gun and throws up whilst chiseling a bad guys fingers off. The leading lady (Dawson) may be achingly beautiful but she is refreshingly neither blonde nor 21. It is she who teaches Colton how to shoot and whilst they make a stronger team together, she is undeniably kick-ass in her own right. She’s the one who eventually kills the terrifyingly bad baddie (D’Onofrio’s performance is outstanding as the Nazi psychopath) and is only taken out of action when she is tasered to unconsciousness. She does some pretty impressive punching as well – always good to see.

Unfortunately this laudable quality will most probably be its downfall. Men should like this film (listen up boys, there’s stuff you could learn here) but they probably won’t. Dawson isn’t objectified enough, she doesn’t get her kit off, she’s not enough of a helpless victim; Duhamel isn’t thoughtless, brutal or savage enough to satisfy a macho audience. With many girls still not quite au fait with admitting we occasionally like to watch films about bad guys getting beaten up as well as ones about romance, life struggles and turning 30, this film will struggle to find an audience. Add to that what felt like some minor errors at the cutting level that makes the plot clunky in places, this film could easily be considered ‘cheesy’.

There’s a pleasing cameo from Vinnie Jones and while Bruce Willis phones in his performance as the embittered cop it’s all that’s really required from him. If you asked me in polite company ‘Do you fancy good-looking firemen?’ I’d protest. I would point out that sexually objectifying men doesn’t even the age-old score it just demeans everyone involved. If you asked me in private I’d say ‘Hell yes!’ Josh Duhamel is hot in this film! Does the plot work? Who cares!

Not a big screen spectacular but definitely worth a watch when it comes on Sky.

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