The writers, producers, and director who allowed this to happen share blame for assaulting the audience with their laziness.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

It should come as no surprise that a barren movie summer ends with the release of a sure contender for the year's dullest movie. The very title, "Fire Down Below," falls from the tongue with a modest thud. Only a charismatic actor could have rescued this movie, and look who we have: Steven Seagal. This is a man who seems proud to resemble an action toy with a thin, reedy voice and the least expressive face in Hollywood. Striding woodenly beneath a helmet of black hair, he takes on waves of bullies by pounding their heads on truck hoods and pool tables.

The movie is built on the ridiculous premise of a corporate tycoon (Kris Kristofferson) who dispatches his nasty son to rural Kentucky to oversee the helicopter disposal of toxins in an abandoned mine shaft. The toxic waste drums provide both a politically correct theme and a convenient setting for the final shootout. In case you haven't figured it out, this underground cauldron is the "fire down below."

Federal agent Jack Taggart (Mr. Seagal) strides into this town of ugly young punks and tarpaper shacks in the guise of an intinerant carpenter who wants only to help the poor fix up their houses--no charge. Wearing the black leather favored by so many carpenters we all know, he allies himself with the local church. A faint halo fairly glows around his head. He keeps threatening to call in the feds, but never bothers to make the call that would solve the whole mess, so we spend most of the movie thinking, "Just pick up the phone, Jack!" No, Jack will do it alone, at the same time he's courting Sarah (Marg Helgenberger), the local beekeeper who for some mysterious reason is shunned by her town.

Derivative is too weak a word for this movie. Sarah sets a simple love table for Jack ("Bridges of Madison County"), the populace fights skin lesions and bubbling toxins ("Volcano"), the beekeeper stares lovingly at her hives ("Ulee's Gold"), and rednecks ("Breakdown") rule the town.

In the movie's most unwatchable scene, the leather-clad, ponytailed Jack grips the lectern in the fairy-tale church with brightly lit windows and intones, "We have to come together as one family and fight this." Other memorable lines abound: "Where the hell are ya goin, pretty boy?" You will remember that this town of shanties and rotten bullies suddenly sprouts a perfect gazebo by a beautiful lake where the townspeople, newly circumspect in dress and demeanor, dance by the light of a Rockwellian moon.

The writers, producers, and director who allowed this to happen share blame for assaulting the audience with their laziness. The time is not far off when a lame movie like this will go straight to the video shelf without playing the multiplex. The sole distinction of "Fire Down Below" is that it stands as the final insult in a summer of Hollywood mediocrity.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 495
Studio : Warner Bros.
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h39m

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