Firestorm | Chicago Reader


An enthusiastic smoke jumper (Howie Long) comes up against a wily convict (William Forsythe) who's arranged a forest fire to cover his escape in this 1998 action thriller, which offers some relatively gripping excitement, misses an opportunity for a really good plot twist, and instead of romance has some of the hokiest sexual symbolism you can imagine. Forsythe must make his way out of the raging fire he and a busload of other prisoners are obliged to fight—until it's deemed too hot for anyone but professionals. Accompanied by a handful of other convicts with whom he's promised to split $37 million, he takes advantage of their unbelievable gullibility, picking them off one by one after each has outlived his usefulness. Suzy Amis, an ornithologist the escapees attempt to hold hostage, hooks up with Long, who's parachuted into the thick of things; pursued by Forsythe and his dwindling crew, the two flee a firestorm. In one conversation it's amazing they have time for, the ornithologist, whose father apparently wanted a boy, elaborately explains how she came to have the extraordinary survival skills she's just displayed—and these contrived lines actually make her behavior seem plausible. Written by Chris Soth, and directed by Dean Semler.

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