Director David Barrett has spend the vast majority of his movie career working tirelessly – yet somewhat unnoticeably – as a major Hollywood stuntman. However he now steps into the limelight for his very first feature film Fire With Fire. Although earning a theatrical release over here in the UK, this film went straight to DVD in the States, which, regrettably, is a sad indictment as to how this film plays out.
Josh Duhamel plays Jeremy, a fireman who gets caught up in a murder scene at a convenience store, and although managing to escape, as a witness to the crime he is required to testify against the perpetrator and fascist crime lord David Hagan (Vincent D'Onofrio). However for bravely attempting to send the villain to jail, Jeremy must pay the price by entering into a witness protection programme, thanks to help of detective Mike Cella (Bruce Willis). Although moving home and taking on a new identity, given the connections Hagan has across America, it isn't long until before Jeremy is tracked down, as the innocent victim then realises that in order to stay safe and protect the lives of his loved ones – including love interest Talia (Rosario Dawson), he may have to take the law into his own hands.
Following on from the disastrous A Good Day to Die Hard, it's fair to say that it hasn't been the greatest of months for ol' Willis, though in his defence, he really isn't in this film very often. Talking of bad months, Duhamel is ticking off a couple of shockers himself what with this and Safe Haven. Unlike Willis, sadly Duhamel does play a rather large role in this film, and as such the picture suffers as a result. There is no denying that he comes across as a nice enough guy and someone who works incredibly hard - but he just isn't particularly blessed from an acting perspective, especially evident in the supposedly emotional scenes where he simply doesn't react. His whole life has been turned upside down as he enters witness protection, and he barely flinches upon hearing the tragic news.
We also have a handful of tedious cameo roles, such as the brilliantly compatible Vinnie Jones - playing, you guessed it, a cockney geezer, while 50 Cent is in it for 50 seconds. The only performers who leave with any inch of credibility, are Richard Schiff and D'Onofrio – the latter standing out in particular as the chilling antagonist. Following on from Chained earlier this year, this once again proves that this man knows how to portray one sick, nasty bastard.
The concept itself is rather intriguing; the idea of one man – without any form of identity – coming up against a seemingly infallible enemy, playing up heavily on the theme of the underdog. Nonetheless, a host of annoying cinematic inconsistencies (and a needless romantic subplot) prevent this from being worthwhile. For example – and apologies for the pedantry – but when it says “46 hours later...” and we go from the middle of the night to lunchtime. That doesn't quite add up. Oh, and that annoying cliched “I need a minicab” phone-call, only to hang up before giving an address. The poor driver won't know where to pick you up from.
Fire With Fire is just one of those films that suffers in almost every single aspect. The story falters, the screenplay is below-par, the special effects are second-rate and the performances even worse. It's just too predictable and brings absolutely nothing new to contemporary cinema, in what sadly proves to be a horribly generic action flick to mark Barrett's very first foray into feature film directing.