Firewalker hits Blu-ray on 4/21/2015 from Olive Films
The Indiana Jones films really ruined it for all of their knock offs, didn’t they? Themselves a well-documented homage to the serial adventures of the 1930s, Indiana Jones was an obvious property to want to emulate. What with the high adventure, the strapping but comedic hero, the exotic locales, and the mixture of archeology and magic. But the brilliance of the Indiana Jones films comes with their uncanny knack for balancing all those elements, along with the irreplaceable charisma of Harrison Ford in the lead role, the legendary Steven Spielberg behind the camera, and probably just a little bit of luck and great timing.
But none of the challenges that stand in the way of making a quality Indiana Jones knockoff would ever stop Cannon Films producing partners Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus from taking a crack at it. Oddly, they took quite a few cracks at it, and even more than one in the same year. Cannon got their feet wet in the Indiana Jones aping game with King Solomon’s Mines (1985), an Allan Quatermain adventure starring Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone and directed by Firewalker helmer and frequent Cannon go-to director J. Lee Thompson. Apparently this was filmed concurrently with its own sequel, Allan Quatermain And The Lost City Of Gold (1986)… and it shows. Both films are silly at best, and offensive at worst.
And it seems that Golan/Globus were just plain IN the Indiana Jones business in 1986, because Firewalker released that very same year, and perhaps sought to right the wrongs of the Quatermain films by taking a page out of the buddy cop handbook and pairing Cannon’s cash cow Chuck Norris with, you know, a real actor… Louis Gossett, Jr. But while the “buddy film” intentions are earnest, the chemistry between Norris and Gossett, Jr. is hampered by Robert Gosnell’s limp script and Norris’ legendary inability to act.
The duo, Max Donigan (Norris) and Leo Porter (Gossett), are down and out soldiers for hire… the kind of people that are only heroes in movies like this and The Expendables, and who in real life are mercenaries who should almost uniformly be locked away for crimes against humanity. A young woman named Patricia secures their services to track down some type of Native treasure… nevermind whether that is Native to the lands of the United States, or the lands of Central or South America; same difference, right?! On this quest they will casually murder dozens of Native people, all set to hilariously offensive music meant to evoke whatever culture the film is referencing at that moment. They do adventurous things like don priest disguises and fumble their way through a border check by saying “E Pluribus Unum” in chant voice because comedy. Their ceaseless banter will cut through any even remote possibility of tension or danger. And then John Rhys-Davies will show up just to further remind you, by direct comparison, how far off the Indiana Jones reservation we have gone.
I’m coming down hard on Firewalker because it is a derivative film that feels slapped together and packaged for quick sale. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a blast watching it. Look, I’m a total sucker for Cannon Films and this was my very first viewing of one of their higher profile titles at the height of their success. I can’t help but imagine Golan and Globus’ unbridled excitement and laughter (they notoriously never QUITE figured out American humor in spite trying to infuse it into most of their films) as they read through this script, totally glancing over the fact that Chuck Norris is almost incapable of humor or banter and plopping him into the lead role because he can kick real good and had previously made them a ton of money. I even love watching Chuck Norris. He fascinates me. Who else managed to parlay a career as a genuine martial artist of note into such a lifelong and successful career as a leading man while never once even approaching a good performance from an acting perspective? He’s a brand, a guarantee that you’ll get spin kicks, in slow motion, often. And he delivered on that promise. The film also features Sonny Landham of Predator fame in a thankless (as well as offensive) villainous role as El Coyote, the hella buff supernatural Native who plans to sacrifice Melody Anderson’s Patricia in order to gain the Firewalker power of his ancestors… or something.
Firewalker isn’t trying all that hard. It knows you want action and adventure. It knows you love a few barbs exchanged between old friends. It wagers that you’re fairly certain the good guys are going to win, so it never even once lets you think that might not be the case. It knows you loved Indiana Jones and hopes to tide you over until you get that next A-list fix. Sadly it fails to capture almost any of the magic of those films, but creates its own as another notch in the Golan/Globus belt… forever a part of cinematic curiosity as a prime Cannon Film and Chuck Norris starrer. If you’re a fellow member of the cult of Cannon (don’t miss my old column at AICN called Cannon Fodder), I suspect you’ll want to revisit this film on Blu-ray post haste. If you’re a normal human being who likes to assess films based on their actual quality, then Firewalker is a pale imitator to be spurned.
Olive Films has found a market for releasing mass quantities of titles, many for the first time ever on Blu-ray, which most likely never would have made the leap to the format if it weren’t for them. As is often the case with Olive, Firewalker has absolutely no bonus features of any kind. Even the menu offers only a play and chapters option. No trailer, no bonus features, no bones about it; but hey, this is the film’s first time ever on Blu-ray. I don’t know anything about the digital transfer except to say that the film looked fine. It probably never looked that great to begin with, and this transfer looked clean enough while also maintaining that grainy vibe of the mid-1980s. This is a barebones release of a painfully mediocre film which I simultaneously couldn’t be happier to own and keep forever.
And I’m Out.