REVIEW: Fire Down Below (1997) – ManlyMovie

REVIEW: Fire Down Below (1997)

If you look at the usual metric sites for this movie and you hadn’t seen it before, you might wince and turn away and not give it a chance.  Or if you caught it in the 1990’s and haven’t seen it since, you might think that it was nothing special compared to the other action movies of the time.  Well I’m here to remind you that Fire Down Below wasn’t so bad, and if it was ‘okay’ then, it’s probably better now.  It is.

The movie sees Steven Seagal thrown into a modern western theme; a dark stranger entering and clearing up a small redneck town ruled by nefarious thugs and corrupt cops.  They’re up to no good up in them there hills, poisoning the local water supply with some type of waste, with chief baddie Kris Kristofferson directing traffic (over the phone).  In between collecting water samples, Seagal fixes porches for old men and gets friendly with the local, ostracized MILF.

But while the locals live in fear of the strongmen, Jack Taggart (Seagal) shows up and practically laughs in their face, and of course when bullies find that their intimidation is ineffective against a 6’5 martial artist, things soon turn violent, and not in the way they’d hoped.  “Damn, that sumbitch broke mah jaw!”, laments one yokel put down by Taggart.  Others who try their luck get beaten to a pulp with poles and sticks.

This was the penultimate movie from Seagal’s Warner contract and it was a severe box office bomb (the final was Exit Wounds, which was a success).  But why did it bomb despite having a decent budget and cast (Seagal, Kristofferson, Stephen Lang, Mark Collie and a few other big country singers)?  We could probably blame Warner.  The studio took the movie at the last minute and butchered it, worsening a mediocre screenplay, which was turned down by Bruce Willis, and making the tropes stand out even more by removing any character development.

Their reasoning was that they felt that since it was a Steven Seagal movie, it should be shorter and more fast paced.  But if that was the case, why did they remove some of the most expensive action scenes? Like the big intro scene featuring Seagal and his partner?  Also lacking is Kris Kristofferson, not really in the movie all that much and I’ll be damned if he isn’t a great villain.  Probably cut.

Decent fight scenes among beauty cinematography, it’s not so bad

But in saying that, even though it’s one of Steven Seagal’s weaker movies, I can tell you that I enjoyed it all the same (odd incest stuff and soft-R aside).  Seagal’s old charisma is here, he’s mostly having fun in this movie along with other cast members like Harry Dean Stanton.  The fight scenes are also good, I might even say, some of Steven Seagal’s better fight scenes.  When he takes on 10 men in the town centre, that was pretty well shot for example — lucid, realistic and painful looking.

If you can adjust your expectations, you’ll probably like this movie.  It’s classic Steve and where some people pay to see Al Pacino work the screen as a thespian, others pay to see Steven Seagal command the screen as a kinetic hard man, defending the honor of little old pensioners with his fists – that’s what happens here.  Pity we’ll never see the full version of it though, eh…?