1 1/2 Stars
Fire Down Below is not only a second tier Seagal film it’s also one of his ‘personal’ projects. This film is a second-cousin of the Seagal directed On Deadly Ground. Debating which of the two pictures is more ludicrous can lead to psychosis. By 1997 lead actor Steven Seagal had grown into an absurd action hero. A big-bellied man with a soft-voice, and a hard fist, the once commanding action icon had withered into a lazy screen persona. This laconic attitude toward acting and projects led to audience desertion. The poor performance of Fire Down Below would bring about a four-year absence from the big-screen for its girth-y star.
Jack Taggart (Steven Seagal) is an EPA agent investigating the murder of a colleague and two F.B.I agents. He’s sent undercover to a small mining town whose population has become sick due to illegal toxic dumping. The corporate magnate behind the environmental violation is Orin Hanner Sr. (Kris Kristofferson). Taggart takes out Hanner’s henchmen with ease and even has time to settle a domestic dispute between an abusive brother (Stephen Lang), and a mountain woman (Marg Helgenberger).
With a script from Jeb Stuart, Fire Down Below is too heavy on melodrama and short on action. Running 105 laborious minutes this dud becomes uninteresting after about 20 minutes. Seagal’s infamous cultural integration continues, here he approximates the southern drawl of the Kentucky miners. Also if a guy is going undercover, maybe he shouldn’t be the only one in town dressed head-to-toe in black leather.
1997 was a bizarre time for action cinema. Van Damme and Seagal were losing their star power as box-office attractions. Meanwhile, Stallone was taking on heavy drama and Nicolas Cage was immersed in high-octane thrill rides. This was the beginning of the end for the 1980s one-man army film.
Director: Félix Enríquez Alcalá
Stars: Steven Seagal, Harry Dean Stanton, Stephen Lang