Fire with Fire is a nice little suspense-thriller which, thanks to an impressive even stellar cast, lifts above a so-so script into something that will hold your attention for 90-minutes. This is hardly a challenging movie but it’s worth checking out if not for solid performances from Josh Duhamel and Vincent D’Onofrio. Having said that, don’t expect anything more.
Genre(s): Crime, Suspense, Drama
Lionsgate | R – 97 min. – $24.99 | November 6, 2012
Directed by: David Barrett
Writer(s): Tom O’Connor (written by)
Cast: Josh Duhamel, Bruce Willis, Rosario Dawson, Julian McMahon, Quinton Jackson, Curtis Jackson, Richard Schiff, Vinnie Jones, Vincent D’Onofrio
Theatrical Release Date: August 31, 2012
Features: 2 Commentaries, Featurettes, Interviews, Theatrical Trailer
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish
Disc Size: 44.1 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 3.25/5
The crime-drama Fire with Fire is the type of film that features a talented cast but a thin and at times ludicrous plot. Fortunately, as outlandish as the story is however, I was actually fairly entertaining throughout.
The movie begins with hotshot firefighter Jeremy Coleman (JOSH DUHAMEL) rushing from a blazing fire with an expensive case of vodka in his arms. Yep, he’s a stud and a single one at that not willing to attach himself to a relationship. So he and his buds (including “Las Vegas” co-star JAMES LESURE) stop off at a convenience store and the other two drive off to get gas. Moments later while Coleman is shopping, a couple armed thugs (VINNIE JONES) come in followed by Aryan Brotherhood crime lord Hagan (VINCENT D’ONOFRIO) who wants to buy the store from the owner (THOM BARRY). The owner refuses as the neighborhood is under the control of the East Side Gang, but to show how serious he is, Hagan shoots the owner’s son and then another worker. Coleman manages to make his escape but not before taking a bullet to the shoulder after a lengthy chase. Luckily, and conveniently, he stumbles upon his buddies who take him to the hospital and eventually makes a statement to the police.
Enter Lieutenant Mike Cella (BRUCE WILLIS), somebody who has been after Hagan ever since his partner was brutally murdered years earlier. Also on the case is A.D.A. Karen Westlake (BONNIE SOMMERVILLE), someone also been trying to put Hagan behind bars, but nothing has ever stuck as Hagan has been able to elude justice, primarily through intimidation and, of course, murder. Coleman goes to the police station to make a positive ID and despite threats by Hagan in the lineup room (he knows Coleman’s SS# and other personal info), Coleman makes the ID anyway. Afterward he’s informed about Hagan’s bloody past and that if he were to testify, he would need to go into Witness Protection until the trial. Even so, he agrees to testify.
Fast forward 9 months, Jeremy has been relocated to New Orleans (where the entire movie was shot) and is in a serious relationship with U.S. Marshal Talia Durham (ROSARIO DAWSON). His time in protective custody is coming to an end with the trial set to begin soon, but that’s when the real trouble starts. First, Jeremy receives a phone call from Hagan who not only continues his threats against friends but also that even in jail, Jeremy will never be safe… and neither will his new love Talia be either.
And that’s really where the depth for Fire with Fire ends and we go full force into a mixture of The Juror meets The Fugitive, but in case of the latter, with far less impact or thrills. This isn’t to say Fire with Fire isn’t an entertaining thriller because it did manage to capture and keep my attention through the relatively short 97-minute running time, but a compelling crime-drama this is not. For one thing, this came across as a Lifetime Movie of the Week pick only with higher profile names and better talent.
The cast do their best with a half-rung script with Josh Duhamel taking center stage, after supporting roles in the Transformers movies, and does as well as he could; Bruce Willis continues to either return favors, cash in quick checks or both with a part that has little meat and, for the most part, are completely unnecessary and doesn’t add a whole lot (despite having a direct connection with the villain); similarly, Rosario Dawson gets a tad more to do and serves well as the love interest and compelling reason why Duhamel’s character does; and finally Vincent D’Onofrio plays the Aryan leader with ferocity and certainly commands the screen even if he’s a generic, albeit bad-ass, power-hungry antagonist.
The supporting roles are again impressive especially since they’re small, limited characters. First you’ve got Vinnie Jones playing Hagan’s right-hand man, 50 Cent appears as a gun-selling civil thug, Julian McMahon is an assassin hired by Hagan to kill Jeremy and Richard Schiff, delivering perhaps the better performance of these bunch, is the snake defense attorney for Hagan.
Fire with Fire was directed by David Barrett’s whose career has comprised of television work (“The Mentalist” and “Castle” most recently) and stunt work on numerous projects (The Taking of Pelham 123 and The Town). On a technical level, this is a pragmatic job Barrett has done and given the limitations of the script, not entirely bad keeping good pacing until the very end.
If you want a fast paced thriller, then Fire with Fire is the movie for you. It’s got just enough suspense to hold your attention and with a cast like this, a limited story gets elevated beyond made-for-television status. However, if you’re looking for substance or just something memorable, I doubt it will fill your needs. As I said, it’s a fine film to watch on a slow night and one that will not challenge your brain, which every so often isn’t such a bad thing.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.5/5
Audio Commentaries – There are two tracks: 1) Director David Barrett and Cinematographer Christopher Probst and 2) Actors Vincent D’Onofrio, Eric Winter and James Lesure. As you can imagine the first track is more informative tackling the script, filming locations and other technical aspects while the second covers the acting aspects.
D’Onofrio’s part was recorded separately. However, as nice as the actors’ track is, there are far too many blank spots (~80% I’d estimate) as they only talk when their character is onscreen. This one would’ve been better served as a scene-specific feature rather than running it for the entire length.
Behind the Scenes: Fire with Fire (9:20; HD) is a collection of cast/crew sound bites, intermixed with footage from the movie, as they talk about the plot and working with others on the production. It’s a mundane featurette with surface-level info about the movie.
Extended Interviews (TRT 1:54:11; HD) – Here we get full interviews with the cast and crew: Director David Barrett (21:46), Josh Duhamel (22:21), Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson (20:30), Eric Winter (5:57), James Lesure (5:15), Vinnie Jones (5:03), Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (7:24), Nnamdi Asomugha (11:38) and Producer Randall Emmett (14:17). Missing are Rosario Dawson, Vincent D’Onofrio and Bruce Willis. The bulk of these have the interviewee talk about their character and the plot. As with the BTS featurette, it’s very pedestrian.
Also included is the Red Band Theatrical Trailer (2:31; HD).
Previews – Safe, Freelancers, Haywire
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Fire with Fire blazes onto Blu-ray presented with a 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and a 1080p high-definition transfer. The picture here is actually impressive with some nice clarity throughout, good color array and dark levels which do not show off much in the way of artifacts or other flaws. The print has a good amount of natural film grain but it’s not overabundant and only adds to the film-like quality one would see in the theater.
AUDIO – 4.25/5
The disc comes with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track which is pretty dynamic especially since there’s a fair amount of action including gunfire, fire, explosions, etc. but also plenty of low level elements plus dialogue. Most of action comes out of the front and rear channels while most dialogue is crisp and clears via the center speaker. While it might not be the best lossless track I’ve comes across (even this week), it’s still notable.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, Fire with Fire is a nice little suspense-thriller which, thanks to an impressive even stellar cast, lifts above a so-so script into something that will hold your attention for 90-minutes. This is hardly a challenging movie but it’s worth checking out if not for solid performances from Josh Duhamel and Vincent D’Onofrio. Having said that, don’t expect anything more. The Blu-ray would seem to have some good features but other than the first commentary, it’s all very superficial. The audio/video transfers, though, are quite good and should give your home theater system a modest workout.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.