Fire Down Below Review

by David Sunga (dsunga AT orbitel DOT com)
September 7th, 1997

Fire Down Below (1997)
A Movie Review by David Sunga

Starring: Steven Seagal, Marg Helgenberger, Harry Dean Stanton, Stephen Lang, and Kris Kristofferson

Directed by: Felix Enriquez Alcala.

Written by Jeb Stuart and Philip Morton. Story by Jeb Stuart.
To set up the situation, the first five minutes of this movie explain that an evil mining corporation is illegally dumping radioactive waste in the backwoods of Kentucky, and that EPA agent Jack Taggert (Steven Seagal) is being sent to Kentucky to convince the scared local townspeople to testify against the big bad company.

The movie has two main plots: 1) Taggart attacks evil mining tycoon Orin Hanner (Kris Kistofferson) and Hanner's thugs because they once killed a fellow agent and friend of Taggert's, and; 2) Taggert courts a local outcast named Sarah (Marg Helgenberger). He tries to charm the scared townsfolk into testifying by giving them rides in his pickup truck, repairing wooden porches, and making a speech during a church service.
"Fire Down Below" features no big climactic battle, but does contain a few skirmishes lasting a few seconds a piece, where big Taggert (Seagal) gets to bully some undersized townfolk who are lackeys of the evil corporation.

Aikido content: Martial artist turned actor Steven Seagal is a real life Aikido expert. In most Seagal movies Seagal can usually be counted on for at least a kote gaeshi outward wrist turn, a sankyo controlling wristlock, and an irimi nage entering throw where he sidesteps forward and to the left and then clotheslines the opponent with his free right hand. In "Fire Down Below" Seagal manages at least a few sankyos and an irimi nage throw, but 90% of the time he uses standby moves such as front kicks to the groin and shoves. He does a new move - squeezing the neck with the fingers - probably twice. The fight photography often shows dark shots of people falling to the ground quickly and not getting up. These 'instant victory' fight scenes seemed too short, easy, and anticlimactic, so they didn't build any suspense or sense of impending danger for upcoming scenes .

Opinion: A typical action movie such as Seagal's earlier movie 'Under Siege' (1992) has short skirmishes building in suspense, leading to a climactic final confrontation. "Fire Down Below" doesn't do this (despite containing quite a few short scenes where good guy Taggert gets to domineer and bully people he doesn't like), so "Fire Down Below" appears to be more of an winded environmental drama than an accelerating action flick. The end result is that this pro-ecology film feels like an hour-long drama that has been stretched an extra 43 minutes to become a movie. If you're into country music, you’ll enjoy a lot of wonderful cameos by celebrities such as Randy Travis and others in scenes where Jack Taggert escorts his girlfriend around town.

Reviewed by David Sunga

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