The first 14-minutes of Fire with Fire are superb. Fireman Jeremy Coleman (Josh Duhamel) inadvertently witnesses a hate crime, and escapes with his life. Convinced to testify against a gang of Aryan nation thugs, Coleman enters witness protection as the US Marshals and local police begin their work.
Then, it’s over. Coleman hooks up with US Marshal Talia (Rosario Dawson), inserted as little more than emotional fodder. During a sniper attack, she’s shot in the head, possibly grazed, and heals without so much as a scratch in a matter of days. Coleman leaves police protection under his own will believing he’s unsafe, despite that he was until he mingled with their own.
That sets off the revenge movie course, with Coleman tracking down Hagan (Vincet D’Onoforio). Hagan is a Nazi in the most ludicrous sense, the type of guy who has fake tattoos by his throat and sits in his office with his shirt open to show off more of them. Hagan is as one dimensional as the body art strewn around his belly.
Coleman pops in and out, visiting actors who step in for a quick paycheck. It’s advisable to avoid the film if you’re in it for any of the following actors: 50 Cent, Vinnie Jones, Rampage Jackson, or Julian McMahon. They do more to beef up marketing than they do in the film, each having two scenes maximum to deliver their lines and cash out.
That leaves the fate of Fire with Fire on Duhamel, who can’t be blamed for the material so much as he can for agreeing with it. The film ends on a preposterous coincidence inside a burning building, where Duhamel just happened to have his fire fighting garb on him despite being away from the scene for months. Obvious computer generated flames or not, he still needs protection.
Bruce Willis takes a break from making more Die Hard sequels with his cushy desk job, barking orders over the phone, and throwing one punch late simply because he’s Bruce Willis. Screen presence is enough.
Fire with Fire looks good, passable enough for a small theatrical release. It tries for a multi-location approach that doesn’t become believable, stretching from New Orleans to Long Beach, and looking the same as it does. Cinematography, glossy as it may be, can’t hide the lack of beaches.
Maybe there’s something here for the growing Josh Duhamel fan base, playing off his usual roles for something with a sadistic side. Fire with Fire is no stranger to harsh torture and gore to sell its revenge. Despite the set-up as such, Duhamel is more than a general heartthrob, nor is he barking orders while fighting giant robots. That’s the best that can be said for this video shelf fluff.
Fire with Fire has its share of concerning problems, beginning with ringing via the medium shots and aliasing on the majority of straight lines via cars, buildings, or homes. Despite being digitally captured – with the clarity to prove it – there are moments with a lack of cleanliness. “Rough” seems as good an adjective as any even without immediately noticeable noise. Only a handful of shots reveal source artifacts.
Regularly textured, the material is primed for HD in close. A nice slate of facial definition is on display despite the inconsistencies. Black levels being what they are, Fire with Fire should be dripping with obvious depth. What’s lacking here is a stable color palette, timed to pale the flesh tones and mute the environments. Timing can waver into bright yellows or oranges for a brief period before settling back into an array of flaccid hues.
A handful of establishing shots will highlight the disc over anything else, especially one near some drooping trees not long after the credits. It’s a nice showcase of resolution of which there are only a few opportunities to do so on that level.
Despite the other issues, most of the misgivings lie on the medium shots which utterly fail to maintain integrity. The level of ringing on objects and actors is far too heavy (and consistent) to pass off as a fluke. A final shot of a whiteboard being dissembled is messy as text looks almost digitally outlined. That’s high-end flub, although representative of the entire piece.
The problems with the DTS-HD mix presented here is all balance, or rather the total lack thereof. Music is utterly overpowering, draining the energy from the action, along with the LFE. A series of explosions late are lost, or maybe they are, thanks to the push from the bass-heavy soundtrack. It’s impossible to tell where one begins and the other ends.
It’s the same for car crashes and fights, which seem mixed to a staggeringly low point. Gunfire, brazen and loud as its seated high into the mix, throws off any sense of volume control. Fire with Fire is sort of like watching basic cable, and when a local commercial comes on, it floods the audio 10 decibels higher than the content.
There are moments of surround use worth noting in quieter scenes. A shot of Duhamel throwing a cell phone is fun as it lands behind the listener. The rest is too aggressive and imbalanced to appreciate.
Two commentaries… Two. There are classic films that struggle to receive one. Anyway, the first is production oriented with director David Barrett and cinematographer Christopher Probst. The second pulls in actors Vincent D’Onoforio, Eric Winters, and James Lesure.
A behind-the-scenes feature recaps plot and offers thanks like most of these throwaway featurettes do. Eight extended interviews draw from that 10-minute making-of. Trailers remain.
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