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by Jack Sommersby

"Norris and Gossett, Jr./Oil and Water"
1 stars

A comic pairing that pretty much fails despite the stars' efforts.

A shame this inept Firewalker for just one year before its star Chuck Norris gave his best performance in his career-best, the superb Chicago-set Code of Silence, and its veteran director J. Lee Thompson delivered his own best a year before that with the outstanding Charles Bronson star vehicle The Evil That Men Do (which was also Bronson's best). Norris, a phenomenal athlete and martial-arts star, has wanted to branch out and try something different this time around, which is commendable artistically speaking, and while his attempts at light comedy have been passable before here he's trying for broad comedy, and the sight is not pretty. A blatant "Romancing the Stone" ripoff perpetrated by that king of Hollywood ripoffs, the far-from-respectable studio Cannon Pictures, Firewalker tries teaming Norris with the Oscar-winning black actor Louis Gossett, Jr. as wisecracking archeology treasure hunters Max Donovan and Leo Porter who've been together for ten years during fifteen expeditions yet have virtually nothing to show for it. As the movie opens they're being pursued by some disagreeable sorts, are captured and left to die in a Central American desert; they manage to escape, naturally, and later that night are approached by a beautiful Los Angeles legal secretary, Patricia Goodwin (the luminous Melody Anderson from the horror classic Dead and Buried), who propositions them to partake on a trek to an Indian reservation that promises a large fortune in gold. (How she acquired the map for this is left unexplained.) From here we get a tired of assortment of bar fights and running around in jungles that elicit absolutely nothing in the way of excitement, with Anderson, no matter the tumultuous conditions, her permed hair barely disheveled and bright red lipstick perfectly applied to the point where I'm surprised the cosmetics company Revlon didn't try to angle in for some kind of product placement (when Kathleen Turner went through similar circumstances in the far-superior Romancing the Stone she looked convincingly harried). The storyline is lame to the nth degree, its developments predictable, the construction unbelievably clunky - for a good while Firewalker fails so completely it's hard to believe anyone with anything even remotely resembling common sense could have been looking at the dailies and deeming any minute if it worthwhile. Both Norris and Gossett, Jr. really do try, but their chemistry is practically nonexistent in that they're just on the wrong wavelengths throughout - they're just never convincing as lifelong friends who've been through the thick and thin of it and are inseparable. (There's one good line, spoken by Norris that perfectly sums up his rootless character: when asked by Patricia what he fears he answers, "Suits, apartments, alarm clocks.") It also doesn't help that the electronic music score by Gary Chung is unbelievably cheesy and the lighting by Alex Phillips consistently muzzy - the movie was shot on location yet the imagery is cheap-looking and entirely disposable. Things kinda improve after the first hour when that fantastic character actor John Rhys-Davies of Raiders of the Lost Ark appears as an old comrade of Max's who rescues them from a beheading and revels in the king-like power he has over the natives who worship him. He temporarily makes you feel you're at a real movie, and whatever energy he conjures up quickly dissipates when he departs. You want to root for Firewalker despite its numerous missteps because, deep down, its heart in the right place, but it's ultimately a conceptual failure because its judgment is too shoddy to ignore. The picture is a chore to sit through, with one strained comedic set-piece after another miserably failing. It's akin to watching a highly-intoxicated party guest fumbling about for his car keys for an hour-and-forty-six minutes.

A pleasing Blu-Ray presentation available to its few fans.

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originally posted: 09/23/20 09:09:55
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  21-Nov-1986 (PG-13)



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