Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Awfully Direct: Season 1, Episode 1: Fire With Fire

    And we're back. After a few months hiatus Awfully Direct is back with all new episodes! Thirteen all new episodes to be exact. This is a new thing for Cinema Won. Awfully Direct is now actually the first of two new shows premiering on Cinema Won over the next week. The other show has to do with funny titles. Exciting! Basically, both of these shows will have 13 episode seasons. The shows will run one episode a week (More or less). Then when their season ends I'll take a few weeks break before they return for another 13-episode run. Awfully Direct is first up, with it's Season 1 premiere. (What episodes in November?) Kicking off the season, we have Fire With Fire, a direct-to-DVD film starring... Josh Duhamel, Rosario Dawson and Bruce Willis?

What's the Story?
    Fire With Fire was released direct-to-DVD in November 2012. The film caught my interest for having such a high-caliber cast, despite being a DVD-release only. The film is directed by David Barrett, a stunt coordinator who mostly directs TV episodes with this being his first movie. The film is written by Tom O'Connor, in his first screenplay. Most interestingly though, the film is produced 50 Cent, who has a small cameo in the film, yet is still on the DVD cover. He clearly did have any say in that at all, oh no...

Pictured: 50 Cent's one scene.
The Review
     As the film begins, we find that it was distributed by Lionsgate, whose logo I'm sure I will become familiar with as I do this series. We also see that one of the film's production companies is Cheetah Vision, which is just a cool name. The film opens with firefighters showing up to put out a bar fire in Long Beach, California. We hear through the firefighters' radio that Jeremy (Josh Duhamel, Transformers) is attempting a dangerous rescue inside the blaze. As Jeremy runs out, we discover that what he saved was a 15-year old... case of Scotch. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen! The grateful bar owner lets him keep the booze, which make you wonder if he sent Josh into the blaze, endangering him in order to get his thank you present. Or maybe Josh just went to get the booze himself because he's a douchebag.
     On their way home to drink the scotch, Jeremy and his friends Adam (Eric Winter, The Mentalist) and Sherrod (Nnamdi Asomugha, NFL) stop at a convenience store. While his friends get gas, Jeremy goes into the store. Jeremy is friends with the store's owner and his son, so we get a scene where they can talk so we feel bad when the inevitably die. Sure enough, bad guy Hagan (Vincent D'Onofrio, Law and Order: Criminal Intent) shows up with two cronies, one of which is played by Vinnie Jones, who I also think I'll be seeing a lot of in this series. Hagan is trying to get the store owner to pay him for "protection", however, when he disagrees, Hagan kills both him and his son. No! Not those people I've known for 3 minutes! And to add insult to injury, Hagan has a giant Nazi's swastika tattooed on his chest. Because shooting a teenager in cold blood wasn't subtle enough!
      Jeremy is, of course, able to escape the three highly-trained killers with little effort and runs through several backyrads and back alleys with Vinnie Jones close behind. Eventually, he gets shot, but is found by his friends and is rescued. However, since he ran through several backyards during his escape, we can figure out that Jeremy was pretty far away from the convenience store when his friends found him. Meaning his friends were probably running away like cowards, but hey, they got lucky! Jeremy is met by Officer Cella (Bruce Willis, Cop Out) and his partner Westlake (Bonnie Somerville, Cashmere Mafia), who ask him to pick Hagan out of a line up and testify against him. Hagan attempts to intimidate Jeremy by listing off his personal information, which doesn't intimidate Jeremy and only pisses him off, while also making all the cops believe he's guilty. And he's the villain of this movie?

Willis, pictured as he calls his agent for help.
    Jeremy is placed into witness protection and the opening credits begin. 15 minutes into the movie. Seriously guys, either do the opening credits at the beginning of the movie or don't do them at all. Spoiler alert: 15 minutes into the movie means IT'S NO LONGER THE OPENING OF THE MOVIE! The credits are also completely pointless, as they just recap everything we learned before they started. After that's out of the way, the film opens with Jeremy learning from his two WITSEC handlers Mullens (Kevin Dunn, jOBS) and Talia (Rosario Dawson, Death Proof) that Hagan trial has been moved up and that he can go home soon. Wait, what? First, how long were those opening credits? As far as I can tell, it's been at least a few months since he witnessed the crime and the filmmakers decided that this huge shift in time was completely unnecessary to know about?
    And second, why can he go home? Hagan is a supposedly super dangerous and powerful criminal. Just because he's behind bars doesn't mean Jeremy is safe. If he leaves witness protection, he'll probably just die the minute he walks into town! Anyway, Jeremy goes back to the hotel he's been staying at, where we learn that him and Talia have been sleeping together. Because I'm sure that isn't against WITSEC rules, oh no. I mean, seriously. At one point Talia talks about living in Long Beach with him, like it would be so easy for her to say that she fell in love with one of her witnesses and she's quitting because of that. I'm sure that would go over well. What's worse is that she even teaches him how to shoot a gun, which of course, Jeremy master with just a few tips.
    On their way back from their homemade gun range (I.E. Beer bottle on a log), Jeremy and Talia are ambushed by a sniper, who keeps missing Jeremy, mostly because he's ludicrously far away. And yet somehow Talia is able to nearly shoot the sniper with her pistol? Because action heroes never fail! Except when Talia get grazed by a bullet, which of course knocks her clean out, cementing her status as the worst WITSEC agent ever. A car of bad guys pulls up next to Jeremy, who attempts to take out the bad guys and even wounds one of them. Despite the fact that the bad guy is lying down and Jeremy is clearly shooting up.
    Jeremy has to be relocated again and the WITSEC agents take him to his storage locker to clean it out. And of course. he's let in there alone despite the fact that there's a hit out on him! There, he gets a call from Hagan, who threatens to kill Talia, even though he has no way to get to her. The speech is shockingly lame, yet it riles up Jeremy enough for him to escape police custody and go after Hagan himself. Cause that's not stupid at all!

    So with limited cash and no car, Jeremy travels from New Orleans back to Long Beach in about three days. And no, there isn't an explanation of how he does this, so let's just say he sprouts some wings and flies there on his own. Once there, he approaches a couple street thugs, hoping to buy a gun to use again Hagan. Because a white guy walking up to two black men in order to buy something illegal won't backfire at all. Naturally, the thugs (One of whom is played by Rampage Jackson from The A-Team movie) learn Jeremy is going after Hagan and want him to see their boss. Wait, what? See, it turns out those thugs were part of gang that was being paid by the convenience store worker that Hagan killed and the gang wants revenge. So, let me get this straight. Jeremy manages to find two random members of the very gang Hagan ticked off in a matter of minutes after arriving in Long Beach? Wow, what luck! So, they take Jeremy to their hideout and the gang's leader (Played by 50 Cent in his two minute cameo) gives Jeremy a gun in exchange for killing Hagan.
    This is when the movie really begins to burn. From now on, Jeremy is on his revenge mission, attacking members of Hagan group while trying to find Hagan. However, the film never really explains how Jeremy knows where these places and people are or why they matter or how this gets him to Hagan. Like the next scene, where Jeremy stakes out a warehouse run by Hagan, I assume. There, he finds Vinnie Jones and takes his revenge by threatening to shoot him in the knee, because, you know, that's what tough guys do. He then accidentally (?) kills Vinnie Jones, when another group of Hagan's men come after him. The men chase Jeremy down in a car, which Jeremy can naturally outrun since he's a firefighter and he continues his lucky streak by making a one in a million shot by shooting the car's driver right between the eyes, through the windshield, while running several feet away from the car having only one shooting lesson!
    Jeremy leaves the scene and Bruce Willis shows up with some other officers to investigate the crime scene. This scene is a perfect example of how little Willis care here. In all seriousness, Willis is a great actor, but this may very well be the worst performance of his career. Every scene he's in, Willis looks like he's less concerned about Jeremy and his case and more concerned about when he can cash his paycheck. And I honestly don't blame him. While Willis finds nothing of really value at the crime scene other than a partial print, Jeremy discovers that Hagan's men beat up his black friend from earlier (You've already forgotten his name now too!) and put him in the hospital. So how does Jeremy react to finding out Hagan's men are going after his loved ones. But dragging more of his loved ones into the fray. Jeremy visit his white friend, telling him to get out of town. And, of course, Jeremy's friends just "knows" Jeremy is seeing someone. Jeremy makes his friends promise to keep their meeting a secret and leaves.

    Willis, using the print he found at the crime scene, discovers that Jeremy was the one behind the murders and like any good cop, he decides to keep this a secret and visit Hagan's men himself, while Jeremy discovers yet another one of Hagan's hideouts, this one being a chopshop. There, he tries to sneak through the base without getting noticed, but since the movie needs one more awful fight scene, the lone mechanic in the chopshop (Really? Only one?) discovers Jeremy and fights him. And, of course, Jeremy wins. Jeremy ties the mechanic to a chair and asks for information, threatening to cut his fingers off if he doesn't talk. The mechanic, however, still won't talk, so Jeremy actually follows through and cuts off the guy's fingers. And throws up because of it. Oh darn. The mechanic tells Jeremy to go after Hagan's lawyer (Richard Schiff, The Lost World: Jurassic Park), because... why not!
    Willis meet with Hagan and the two have a short chat, during which neither Hagan or Willis accomplish anything. Better still, this is pretty much Willis's last major scene in the movie, not only making this his worst performance, but also making his entire role completely pointless! Jeremy goes to the lawyer's office, which he's allowed to walk right into, all because he's wearing a suit. Great security guys. He also manages to get into the restricted areas by hacking into the locks. Because, after all, computer hacking is a skill that all firefighters are trained to have. You know, in case there's a... firewall. Thank you, I'm here all week. Literally. Anyway, Jeremy confronts the lawyer in what is probably the film's only really good scene. The lawyer (The best actor in the film, by far) tells Jeremy what it's like to be a lawyer for a scumbag like Hagan and how he has very little choice in the matter. It's nothing all that spectacular, but for this movie, it a a godsend. The lawyer tell Jeremy where he can find Hagan and Jeremy goes to prepare.
    Finally, Dawson returns to the film, asking Jeremy's friend if he seen him. And, keeping true to the promise he made to Jeremy, he tells Dawson everything, despite her only telling him that she's a marshal and never showing any identification. I'm mean, who needs enemies when you have friends like these! Dawson track Jeremy down to his hotel room, where the two romantically embrace, because the filmmakers don't know the meaning of the phrase "mood whiplash". Dawson begs Jeremy to turn himself in, which he agrees to do, before promptly locking Dawson in the bathroom and going after Hagan. You know, because he loves her! That is, until one of Hagan's men (Played by Julian McMahon, from Fantastic Four) kidnaps her, despite her being a U.S. Marshal and the fact that he was there while Jeremy was there and could have just kidnapped him.

Pure sex.
    Now, finally, Jeremy goes after his revenge against Hagan. Jeremy uses his fireman train (I guess?) and fills up Hagan HQ (Which looks suspiciously like an abandoned building) with gasoline (Which none of his men noticed) and sets it on fire with Hagan and his men inside it. Get it? He's fighting fire... with fire! God, this movie sucks. And, in a wacky coincidence, Doctor Doom somehow got to the base before Jeremy and is currently inside, with Dawson, in the blaze. So Jeremy manages to pull firefighting equipment out of his ass and drives his horribly CG I-ed car into the blaze because shut up. And, despite wearing his ventilator inside the car, Jeremy takes it off once he's in the burning building. And he's supposed to be a good firefighter?
    Jeremy races to rescue Dawson, who, again, despite being a trained officer of the law and the person who trained Jeremy, becomes a complete bumbling idiot and nearly gets herself killed before Jeremy rescues her. That is, until Hagan surprises Jeremy and once again, we have a horrible fist fight. And, finally, Dawson does something as she shot Hagan, killing him. And her and Jeremy escape, ready to start their lives together. Despite, you know, how they're both going to prison for murder and arson. Happy ending!

Stick to video game, Fiddy.
Is It That Bad?

    Pretty much. Despite having a surprisingly high caliber cast, the film is just so generic. It's like the filmmakers saw one other Bruce Willis movie and said that they were going to just copy that, but worse. None of the actors are trying, all of them gives some downright terrible performances. The direction is so bland that I'm surprised this wasn't made for TV. The script is so boring I'm amazed the director didn't fall asleep while filming it. And given how bad the direction is, that might actually have happened. Fire With Fire is less of an explosion, and more of a soggy match. It's unexciting, useless and idiotic. Fire With Fire gets 2 stars out of 6. 

This has been Awfully Direct and remember,
if it's not in theaters, then it's not safe!

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