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Firewalker (Blu-ray Review)

FirewalkerBack in the 80s, it was more typical that when something had a big box office success, it’s influence would be that is was knocked off by every studio.  This has always rung true, but its gone out in a more clever, less on the nose copy.  When Indiana Jones took the box office by storm, we saw many more traveling adventures through exotic lands and caves searching for artifacts and gold.  Romancing The Stone hit big and opened the doors for even more after that box office treasure.  Cannon Films decided to not only venture down this path once, but twice.  Their first was King Solomon’s Mines featuring the character of Allan Quatermain akin to be “just like Indy!” (Spawning a sequel of its own).  Today, we have the other swing they took, the Chuck Norris and Lou Gossett Jr. team up, Firewalker!

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Film 

Max Donigan and Leo Porter, two soldiers of fortune, whose adventures rarely result in any notable gain are about to go on the treasure hunt that lends them to a cozy early retirement. They are befriended by an inscrutable woman of mystery Patricia. Patricia’s map leads them on a quest for treasure in Central America.

Well, this movie gets the grand distinction of being one of the films in cinema history with the elegant and always cherished ZERO on the Rotten Tomatometer.  Back in the 80s critics saw this movie for what it was and therefore gave no credence to it whatsoever.  And here we are today where we are asking for rip offs of this ilk because we keep overusing esteemed properties.  These knock-offs that didn’t do as hot did garner smaller audiences and as time passed have developed some cult followings, new appreciation and reanalysis seeking to see the film for its own merits instead of scoffing at it the minute you know its a knock off.

Firewalker still is a pretty poor film, but I don’t think its so much the zero it was awarded.  Its got a horrible pace and clunkily goes from set piece to set piece.  Chuck Norris tries his hand at humor and it fails, but nowadays can be seen as humorous BECAUSE it fails.  But, I’ll argue that this movie might work or might have worked back in the 80s for kids.  Here you have an 80s action hero doing a PG rated film (Yes, PG-13 was around).  So a kid could see some Chuck Norris action that they’d try to sneak by their parents or only get to see cool posters and previews for.  Now, they could have one for their own.

This film does feature a great bar fight here in which Norris clears it of all patrons with his hands and fists.  Sure, there is some Indiana Jones-esque sequences in the film, but this one really is the showstopper and is the one of the few moments where the film actually brings its own flavor to the table and caters to its star’s strengths.  Not to be outdone, there is plenty of practical effect work and stunts abound.  It also has some ridiculous humor (And moments of unintended humor as Norris can’t pull off comedic timing) that goes a decent way.  The highlight being Chuck Norris and Lou Gossett Jr disguising themselves as priests to stow aboard a train.  And of course, we get a slow-mo shot of Norris jump kicking a goon in the face wearing said gear.

Firewalker is what it is; a trashy Indiana Jones knock off.  There is no way around it.  But, it also carries with it that trashy Cannon Films charm that has aged like a cheap Boones Farm wine after all these years.  Its not very good, but if you’re forced to see it, there are some nice takeaways.  If you’re seeking it out, Chuck Norris has much better to offer in terms of vintage 80s action cheesy goodness.  This one may not hit the mark of even a good rip off, but hey, it gave us a super sweet poster!

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  Olive Films has put together a really nice “hands off” effort with Firewalker that it really benefits from.  Early on, the film looks a bit too dim, but after the title sequence, its well lit and looks very nice and detailed.  The rocks that make up the caverns and tombs all show cracks and carvings while gold features dirt and other imperfections.

Depth:  Average work here.  Some of the interiors come off a little flatter. Background imagery looks as good as its going to be, and movement is pretty smooth.

Black Levels:  Blacks are accurate and provide for some nice shading.  No real loss off detail noticed.

Color Reproduction: Coloring looks lifelike.  This is a desert adventure movie, so its mainly set to beige and brown colors.  Although, Patricia wears a red dress at one point that really pops off the screen.

Flesh Tones: Skin is natural and consistent.  Detail is impressive in close ups revealing beads of sweat, wrinkles and stubble.  Further out shots look okay, but detail disappears the further back it goes.

Noise/Artifacts:  Some grain and specs throughout.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA Stereo

Subtitles: N/A

Dynamics: This is an absolute treat and the highlight of this release.  This 2.0 track is loud and booming with action.  There is a great attention to movement and volume of the things going on onscreen throughout.  A highlight was when Chuck Norris fires a gun in a tomb and the bullet ricochets bouncing all around maybe 8 times.  You feel the bullet whizzing around left to right and at different distances.  Its captured in a very interactive fashion.

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp and clear.  Pretty clean track too.

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Extras 

Firewalker contains no bonus material.

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Summary 

Firewalker is some entertaining trash for a lazy Saturday afternoon.  There is some good and unintentionally entertaining aspects to it despite is incredibly slugging pace.  This Blu-ray features really strong technical merits, but doesn’t feature anything in the line of bonus material.  This is likely a sole recommendation for those Cannon Films collectors and hardcore Chuck Norris completionist collectors only.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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