Backdraft meets The Right Stuff and for the sake of authenticity, Scott Glenn is thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, this Firestorm mission has been grounded.

“Smokejumpers” are basically firefighter paratroopers and they’re led by NFL Sunday host and 6’5, 280-lb football Hall of Famer Howie Long as Jesse.

In the opener he descends from the sky to battle a wildfire and rescue a cute little girl trapped in accommodations that look like the Unabomber’s digs. In tow, Scott Glenn as “Wynt,” who has a motor home land on him a la the witch in a white trash Wizard of Oz! It merely buggers up his leg and puts him into early quasi retirement rather than the morgue.

Because this is a terrible action film, it’s vital to utter the title somewhere: “You don’t wanna get caught in a firestorm!” Duly noted. Also, because this is a terrible action film, the cute little girl and the cute little girl’s cute little dog is rescued.

With Wynt out of commission, Jesse takes the helm and trains recruits, one of whom nearly drops an axe on his head from a high pole, that madcap. But smokejumpers aren’t the only ones battling fires. There are also some of the “volunteer” variety.

Apparently license plate manufacturing and roadside litter pick-up aren’t the only means to earn money for cigarettes in the Wyoming penal system. You see convicts (albeit ones who are serving sentences for un-scary felonies), are frequently brought in to help battle blazes! (“the people aren’t stupid, they’re aware of the risk!” someone says of this pilot project).

However, one Shaye (William Forsythe, The Devil’s Rejects and Raising Arizona) has shanked one of the cons conscripted to battle the forest fire and assumed his identity by donning glasses and chopping off his hair. Now, why there was no lockdown after said shanking and the vocational outing continued unabated is a question for screenwriters to answer.

Shaye’s a psychopath, who’s promised four convict firefighters, he’ll give them a cut of millions of dollars after their getaway. The perils of leaving convicts with pickaxes are soon realized, as the five overcome the guards and the professional firefighters set an even larger fire and trap them and the remaining convicts in the prison bus as the blaze approaches.

firestorm1-Along the way, a few of the dim-bulb henchmen end up dead so the psychopath Shaye can get a better cut of the loot.

Donning the deceased firefighter garb rather than prison-issue orange, they hack their way through the forest in hopes of finding a trading post. Shaye dons an unimpressive Canadian accent and suggests his escapees do the same (while references to Gretzky and the French abound, eh?)

Along the way they encounter a birder and another variety of flying species- Howie Long’s Jesse descending from the skies. He presses them for details on what they’re doing so near the fire and probably chalks up the cons’ utter lack of firefighting know-how to the fact they’re Canadian.

Shaye sends a big Russian goon (and ex-wrestler) to kill Jesse when they reach the trading post and Long’s NFL defensive tackle moves are showcased in a protracted fight inside, before the structure is set ablaze and a triumphant Howie Long flies through an open window, and over the balcony on a motorbike conveniently parked inside the trading post (!).

Speaking of convenience, we learn that the birder is not just an aficionado of rare spotted owls but that she is….A COMBAT MEDIC WITH SOME MARINE TRAINING!

We find out that Howie Long is afraid of water (charming and ironic, right?) as the duo has to escape twin dangers of angry cons who don’t want the authorities tipped off about their whereabouts as well as a raging inferno.

Hilariously inept, cliché-addled and lunk-headed. Highly recommended.

***1/2 (out of 5)

Published by Really Awful Movies

Genre film reviewers covering horror and action films. Books include: Mine's Bigger Than Yours! The 100 Wackiest Action Movies and Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons.

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