The idea for this film came from the forest fires that devestated Yellowstone National Park in 1988. The screenwriter, Chris Soth, was on a summer vacation and came upon the burning trees and thought to himself: "I imagine defensive end Howie Long retiring from football and starring as a smokejumper, a brave guy who jumps into these fires in a last-ditch attempt to find his personality."
Unfortunately, Howie does not find his personality, which marks this film as an unmitigated disaster -- not for failing to fulfill Howie's quest, but for suggesting that there was even a personality to find in the first place. Amidst the horrible fire, Howie does find a prison break led by Shaye (William Forsythe), and a female bird watcher, Jennifer (Suzy Amis), who manages to go through the entire film without breaking a pair of delicate bird eggs in her fanny pack despite parachuting off a cliff and getting kicked and thrown to the ground by various people.
While "Firestorm" is high on computer-generated fire effects, it's lacking in believable character motivations. Despite being chased by a 6'5", 270 pound fire fighter, Shaye continues to kill off his fellow prisoners so he can keep all the money he's stolen for himself. Why he wants to make it easier for Howie to kill him is anybody's guess.
The film becomes progressively more stupid as the writer and director can't figure out reasonable ways to explain why all their characters are walking straight into the heart of the fire or why anybody acts the way they do. They take some pains to explain the characteristics of forest fires and then defy them seconds later. The ending is the best. Howie explains how they've got to stay underneath and hold down an overturned boat to keep the fire from sucking the oxygen out then proceeds to propel the bad guy's head through the top of the boat, leaving a fairly big hole. Apparently, the oxygen likes Howie, so it stays long enough for Jennifer and him to survive.
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