FIRETRAP

firetrap

FIRETRAP (2001)

TAGLINE: “The Heat Is On”

IMDB rating: 5.1/10

This looks ominous. TV Superman Dean Cain in a ‘Towering Inferno’ meets ‘Die Hard’ thriller that he also co-produced? Lame title and insipid tagline? Signs are not good. We take a deep breath, settle down, repeat ‘find a happy place’ to ourselves over and over, and press the [PLAY] button.

Oh my word. Surely not. After watching 16 of the worst movies that have ever had the impudence to refer to themselves as such, we press the [PAUSE] button on ‘Firetrap’ after 5 minutes. We look at each other in bewilderment, ‘…but this is……I mean……this is…….actually……OK’. The sheer, overwhelming competence of ‘Firetrap’ renders us almost speechless.

 

Dean Cain

Dean Cain - Everyone's Favourite Superman

Dean Cain plays the awesomely movie monikered ‘Max Hooper’, a professional thief with the skills to steal the bills. The film opens with Max pilfering a…well…er…a super hi-tech something from a supposedly impregnable…place where this…er…thing is kept under lock, key, laser, CCTV and motion sensor. And it’s an opening that works. Astounding. We are reeling. Tension is built and sustained, there’s characterization without baseball-bat-to-the-face exposition, there’s a solid chase scene when things go wrong, and a police car / van pursuit with an enjoyably unexpected conclusion. Crikey. Already it’s collectively more entertaining than all of the films that have preceded it and we are only 10 minutes in. We feel like weeping with delight. Or maybe just relief.

After the success of that first heist, Max’s contact approaches him with an offer of $3 million if he can lift a new generation of computer chip from a mysterious corporation. The payday is enticing, not least because as is de rigeur for all low grade action movies, Max has an exceptionally hot wife and young daughter to support. In his case though, they are both penniless, and estranged from him after he spent 3 years in prison for a crime he most definitely DID commit. It adds another, albeit thin layer of characterization though, the likes of which were notably absent in Jeff  ‘The Speakman’ Speakman’s recent offerings. Though of course, Jeff would never have let himself get caught robbing in the first place- he would have simply ninja’d everyone in the zip code.

We don’t really know how to react. Should we be joyous? Should we revel in our unexpected fortune? Or should we be disappointed that we are no longer hurtling down a steep slope with abandon? The overwhelming feelings of rage and frustration that have accompanied viewings of all films so far have been akin to watching these movies with two old friends, but now…we are alone again. As alone as the director of ‘Granny’ at a screening party for his new movie. Alone with Dean Cain, as he attempts to steal a computer chip from inside a burning building. Admittedly it wasn’t alight when he entered- that would have been foolish- but now he and various members of staff are trapped inside. Including Lori Petty.

You may remember Lori Petty as the feisty tomboy surf chick ‘Tyler’ from ‘Point Break’. It was thought at the time that she would go on to be a big star but that notion disappeared like a man paddling to New Zealand after the disaster that was ‘Tank Girl’.

lori petty

Tanked Girl

Here, she plays the CEO’s bit on the side, though in this movie, her tiny eyebrows and alabaster skin make her look more like a startled shop dummy. She is just one of the corporation’s trapped employees who like a Benetton catalogue, range in age, ethnicity and waistline. They also seem to differ in their flammability as the fire spreads- those whose acting ability resides at the waxwork end of the thespian spectrum seem to have shampooed in paraffin, which is unfortunate.

Time is actually passing reasonably quickly. Max attempts to both steal the chip and lead the staff to safety. There are some mildly interesting subplots, some unexpected twists and plenty of people catching fire. Splendid. Of course if this was the Speakman, a couple of roundhouse kicks would have created enough of a draught to put the fire out, but Max is not Jeff. Only Jeff is Jeff.

The ending is safe and predictable with Max and his family reconciled and minted, the baddies punished and the fire doused, but our bad expectations have not been met. This is a good and surprising thing. Like soft toilet paper in a public lavatory.

Though we accept that by any other yardstick, ‘Firetrap’ is complete poo, by £1 DVD standards, it’s the Godfather Part II. Which makes Dean Cain a Straight To DVD De Niro. Although if watching ‘Firetrap’ again was his offer, it’s an offer we could probably refuse.

 

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