Fire with Fire (2012)
“Revenge has its own set of rules.”
Director: David Barrett
Cast: Josh Duhamel, Bruce Willis, Rosario Dawson
Synopsis: A fireman takes an unexpected course of action when a man whom he’s been ordered to testify against, after being held up at a local convenience store, threatens him.
Going by the prominence of Mr. Willis on the promotional material to this lukewarm thriller, it would be fair to assume that Bruce is the star – or would at least have some pivotal role to play, but apparently he lent only his name and a couple of days of his time, because his character is as much of a spectator as the audience. Leading man duties actually go to Josh Duhamel who sadly just doesn’t possess a strong enough screen presence to carry a movie. Thankfully, the perpetually under-rated Vincent D’Onofrio is on hand to provide a genuinely unnerving bad guy.
Duhamel is Jeremy Coleman, a gung-ho fireman – we first seeing him diving into a blazing building, not to save a trapped child or even a family pet, but a case of 15-year-old scotch – a former orphan with no emotional ties, which is just the way he likes it. On the way home from saving that whisky, Jeremy and a couple of his pals stop off at a local store. While Jeremy’s inside chatting to the proprietor and his teenage son, a white supremacist thug named David Hagan (D’Onofrio) and a couple of his guys (including British footballer-turned-actor Vinnie Jones) show up with guns and attitude. It seems that a few days earlier, the shop’s proprietor refused to sell his store to Hagan’s man and Hagan’s turned up himself to re-negotiate. The owner’s explanation that he pays protection to the Eastside Crips cuts no ice with Hagan, who shoots both the owner and his son. And Jeremy would have been next if Vinnie hadn’t taken his eye off the ball long enough for our hero to escape.
As the only witness to the double murder, Jeremy is crucial to the police’s case against Hagan, but the white supremacist is a master at intimidation. He even manages to obtain Jeremy’s name, address and social security number, which he reads out when called forward at an identity parade. Now, this would be enough to frighten most people out of testifying against him, but Jeremy’s made of sterner stuff, and with no family that can be threatened he agrees to go ahead as a witness. Unfortunately, this means him having to go into the witness protection program, under which he’s relocated to New Orleans and given a new identity. While under police protection he begins a relationship with Talia Durham (Rosario Dawson), one of the officers assigned to protect him, which inadvertently provides Hagan with a weak spot he can exploit. However, he doesn’t count on Jeremy’s courage, and the fireman decides to turn the tables on Hagan by going after him and his men.
Fire With Fire actually starts off quite promisingly. While Jeremy is under the so-called protection of the WPP, the film generates a fair level of suspense, but all that tension evaporates once Jeremy turns vigilante and the story follows a depressingly familiar path. We even have one of those scenes in which the hero thinks deep thoughts while standing under a slow-motion shower which turns the water pink as it washes the blood from his wounds. Very 1982, I have to say. Willis flits in and out of the picture, threatening to do stuff but never quite getting around to it, leaving Duhamel to carry the load. In the real world, Duhamel’s character would probably last no more than a couple of hours once he embarked on his mission, but a combination of luck and bravery sees him through to an unlikely conclusion which – wouldn’t you know it? – involves a raging fire. Fire with Fire isn’t a particularly bad film, but it has no new ideas and a perfunctory delivery that really doesn’t engage the way it should.