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Dead Fire (1997)

by on 2013/01/15

Dead Fire (1997)“You got big balls, Brody, I’ll give you that, but you just tripped over them for the last time!”

* * *

Dead Fire’s Max Durbin (Matt Frewer) has issues. His interests include his late mother, licking the necks of recently-introduced women, and chewing up scenes as he would a stick of gum. Recently sprung from a futuristic prison, this messianic criminal mastermind takes over a cryonics facility, the USS Legacy, orbiting the poisoned remains of the Earth.

Enter Cal Brody (Colin Cunningham), a misunderstood anti-hero assigned to the ass-end of the Legacy. Recalling Adrian Paul and Christian Bale, he’s actually playing John McClane, but in no way resembles Die Hard star Bruce Willis. He’s a rogue soldier with a heart of gold, and he’s going to single-handedly reclaim the station.

Single-handedly with the “help” of two other misfits, I should point out.

One – Monica Schnarre – represents perhaps the most ill-advised casting of a scientist until Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough. She’s utterly convincing only in black lace lingerie.

Another – C. Thomas Howell in a glorified cameo – plays a missing link between Colin Farrell and Dave Foley. With white hair. As a billiards player awakened from his cryogenic slumber. Because in the future we’ll need pool skills for particle physics applications . . . wacky, goofy, bumbling applications.

Would Die Hard have benefited from being set on a Star Trek Borg vessel? If you answered “yes” then this flick should be a treat. Dead Fire was made especially for you, also assuming you want the result packed with dumb ideas, poor writing, miscasting, bad acting, and low production values.

Characters over-explain concepts, their history, and motivations to others who should already know such things. Everyone speaks in catchphrases, provocations and, of course, the venerable one-liner. Yet I’ve never encountered their treatment as presented here. In one egregious case, the protagonist snaps out his parting quip – “Thanks for dropping in!” – a full twenty seconds after tossing a baddie out a window. (Let’s imagine it’s altitude humour which just doesn’t work.)

Decorate it all with a desperate “edge” and you’ve got sheer hilarity: coarse bravado, groped breasts, nude passenger profiles, crotch-grabbing, an aggressive lesbian, overt violence, and the aforementioned throat-licking fetish. It could only be more campy with a show tune interlude.

So much is wrong, it can’t be mistaken, it’s deliberate idiocy. So forgive my finding it all a fair bit of fun.

Except for the lighting. Only the befuddling darkness suggests the filmmakers are covering shortfalls. To date I’ve written about 430 reviews, and none of them seemed as gloomy, not even the unusually shadowy Star Trek: Generations. Fortunately, the integral props are self-illuminating. Guns have red lights on the front – not laser sights, but little bulbs – and the lumber-box cryopods are lined with fluorescent green tubes.

Surprisingly, the visual effects are not too badly done, however even these are inconsistent. Exteriors are acceptable and fit with the actual footage, though compositing halos are quite visible against those dark backgrounds.

All in all, yes it’s a bad movie, but not too bad. What distinguishes Dead Fire against other such dross is at least the dumb fun is, well, fun.

* * *

Not rated, but contains coarse language, nudity, and violence

100 minutes

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