Cannon movies on Blu-ray are the best, but Chuck Norris is the worst.
In the 1980s, the great exploitation studio Cannon Films was making every effort to become a legitimate player in Hollywood by working faster, cheaper and with more flash than any other studio. Part of their plan for world domination included building a stable of stars with whom they could work in movie after movie, which is why they provided a home to action icons like Charles Bronson and Michael Dudikoff throughout the decade. There was perhaps no bigger star on the Cannon roster than Chuck Norris, who made roughly 10 movies for Cannon in the decade between Missing in Action in 1984 and Hellhound in 1994 -- which, incidentally, was also Cannon's last film.
1986's Firewalker, yet another attempt by Menham Golan and Yoram Globus to replicate the success of the Indiana Jones series (a list that includes both King Solomon's Mines and its follow-up, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold), was conceived as a vehicle to show off the lighter side of Chuck Norris. Well, the joke's on us. Chuck Norris does not have a lighter side. That's like expecting a block of wood to have a lighter side; turn it over and it's just more wood. And when you're expecting the lighter side of wood and it turns out to just be more wood it's way worse than when you just want wood to be wood.
Predator) who wants both the golden dagger and the treasure for himself. Sounds like somebody's getting roundhouse kicked.
My feelings about Chuck Norris, action star, are well documented on this site. I don't get it. His martial arts skills are impressive (and on display for pretty much the length of one bar fight here, yet another reason the movie doesn't work), but he lacks any of the other qualities that turn athletes into action stars: acting ability, natural charisma, likability, intensity, you name it. This total deficit in appeal is exacerbated by the fact that in Firewalker, Norris is supposed to be loose and "funny." He is neither, and witnessing his attempts to be both of those things is like watching a dog put on sideburns and try to pass as The Fonz. No one is fooled.
Thompson never gets a handle of the movie's tone, either. Is it a comedy? No, because those have a) jokes and b) laughs. It's more an adventure movie in which nothing is taken seriously, but that wrecks the possibility of our investment. He had already pulled off something similar and better with King Solomon's Mines, which is so over the top and tongue-in-cheek that there's no way to watch it other than as an exaggeration of the Indiana Jones series (which was itself already exaggerated). In Firewalker, though, the attempt at a "light" tone makes for an adventure movie that feels shaggy and half-assed. No real choice is ever made for Chuck Norris' character; we're not sure if he's such a competent man of action that he's unphased at the sight of danger or if he's a screwup masquerading as a man's man. He's either one depending on what the scene needs him to be, but the effect is a character we never know or understand. We're never watching Max Donigan because we're too busy watching Chuck Norris be stiff and uncomfortable.
Flash Gordon. She seemed lost in that movie, swallowed up by the size and gaudiness of the production, not connecting with any of the other actors and never getting a handle on how to play her character. None of that is true in Firewalker. Anderson gives good Willie Scott. She's competent and not played for cheap, ditzy laughs, but Anderson still knows enough to give the part the right amount of screwball energy. While Louis Gossett Jr. is very capable in his thankless role as the sidekick, Anderson is the only actor in the movie whose performance suggests what Firewalker might have been.
So I don't love Firewalker, even as an anomaly in Chuck Norris' filmography. I'm still thrilled to have it on Blu-ray. My love for Cannon is such that just seeing the logo pop up in HD at the start of the film is enough to earn my good will for the next two hours. Olive Films has been great about releasing Cannon titles in high def these days and I'm hoping there are still more to come (like The Last American Virgin, which they're putting out in May). These are the kinds of movies I come back to again and again, and while Chuck Norris' flat, tone deaf attempts at comedy might keep me away from Firewalker, I can already tell that Melody Anderson is going to bring me back.
Blu-ray release date: April 21, 2015
DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)