Fire with Fire (2012) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

In Fire with Fire for the first time Bruce Willis is just as bad as people who don’t like him say he is. Usually engaging and sympathetic, Willis is alternately blank and over the top here, an unenthusiastic slug in the midst of 95 minutes of gunfire, explosions and double-crosses. Its too bad Willis phoned this one in, because the rest of the cast seems to be working their asses off. If this is a b-movie nobody told the other leads.

Cocky, risk-taking firefighter Jeremy Coleman (Josh Duhamel) goes into a neighborhood convenience store after a late shift and walks into a life changing situation. Four armed men, led by Aryan brotherhood gang leader David Hagan (Vincent D’Onofrio) rob and kill the black shop keeper and his teenage son. Jeremy barely escapes with his life after fighting off one attacker and fleeing the scene. The police arrest Hagan shortly after and Coleman is brought in to I.D. the killer. In the midst of the line-up Hagan steps forward and coldly recounts Jeremy Coleman’s home address and social security number. Instantly supervising Lt. Mike Cella (Bruce Willis) offers the victim inclusion into the witness protection program in exchange for his testimony.

While in the protection of Wit-Sec, Jeremy develops a romantic relationship with an attractive female U.S. Marshal named Talia Durham (Rosario Dawson). The pair meet up for passionate rendezvous at a motel on the outskirts of New Orleans. She also teaches him weapons techniques and takes him target practicing with handguns. Word is leaked of Coleman’s whereabouts and a cold-blooded assassin (Julian McMahon) is dispatched by Hagan to kill the prosecution’s star witness.

Finally Jeremy snaps and decides to come after David Hagan and his criminal gang, putting the aggressor on the defense. On a cell phone conversation between the two, Coleman declares, “To hell with witness protect you’re going to need protection from me.” From this point on the film turns into a Ransom style plot reversal in which the everyman turns the tables on the criminals haunting him.

Josh Duhamel is a likable action figure, his character is a man of low ambitions and simple pleasure pushed into an extreme situation, who never intended to kill anybody on his road to justice, but also cannot afford for more of his loved ones to continue to be murdered. Director David Barett has honed his film down to the essentials and it is a stronger story for it. The diverse cast includes Curtis ’50 cent’ Jackson, Vinnie Jones, Kevin Dunn and ex UFC champ Quentin ‘Rampage’ Jackson. Jackson has a great scene in which he tries talking Jeremy into buying a larger gun.

Fire with Fire is a violent film with a graphic torture sequence, showcasing Jeremy interrogating a henchman. He drives a spike and chisel through the bad guy’s finger one at a time. It’s gratuitous but evened out because Josh Duhamel’s character begins vomiting from the violence. There are also some coincidences that are a little too neat, like how Jeremy’s knowledge of fire’s behavior saves lives in the first scene and then, at the end, that becomes the method he uses to wipe out legions of bad guys and save his girlfriend. It’s a plot turn that makes you wonder how in the hell he could have figured that one out. This is the movie that The Cold Light of Day should have been. How that turkey received a theatrical release and this little gem is buried in the Redbox heap, is beyond me.

Director: David Barrett
Stars: Josh Duhamel, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis

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