A made-for-TV action movie with made-for-TV special effects and an A-list cast, Fire with Fire (2012) has the worst star to quality ratio of any film since Movie 43 (2013). Josh Duhamel (who was in that too), Bruce Willis, Rosario Dawson, Vincent D’Onofrio and Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson couldn’t stop this motionless disaster going straight to DVD in the US, but UK distributors looking to locate the few A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) fans have released it here theatrically. After driving a truck off the back of a helicopter in that film, it appears as if 57-year-old Willis is in need of a sit down: as glorified secretary Detective Cella, he barely lifts a finger other than to pick up a phone.
Most of real work is done by Duhamel as Los Angeles firefighting protagonist Jeremy, who walks in on a double homicide in a convenience store and is placed in a witness protection programme in New Orleans – something that director David Barrett and screenwriter Tom O’Connor should explore for the real victims, their viewers, as well. There he falls in love with US Marshall Talia (staple inamorata Dawson), but when she is targeted by white supremacist gang leader Hagan (D’Onofrio), Jeremy sets out to get revenge.
Fire with Fire is assembled out of parts from American History X, the Bourne cycle, Wanted and Taken, and is significantly worse than all of them – even Taken 2 (2012). Barrett, who, as the press material points out, has garnered such accolades as a nomination for Best Action Sequence in a Feature Film at the MTV Movie Awards for 2003’s Final Destination 2, has taken the familiar ‘man on the run’ trope and doused it with a new, hitherto unfathomable awfulness. Duhamel stumbles from abandoned warehouse to abandoned warehouse, delivering condescending monologues about what it is to be a fireman with an overblown intensity that, working from O’Connor’s alarmingly bad script, is utterly risible.
Unlike other recent action films like Parker (also released this week), The Last Stand and, to some extent, A Good Day to Die Hard, Barrett’s set-pieces are mannered and lukewarm, without the self-aware sense of fun of those films. Fire with Fire is so tedious that it’s not even aware of its own tediousness. Richard Schiff (Toby from The West Wing) is a minor highlight as a morally challenged defence attorney, but ultimately, can do nothing more than polish an unmentionable.