Friday, November 9, 2012


(US - 2012)

This idiotic 50 Cent-produced thriller skipped theaters altogether despite a $20 million budget, most of which appears to have gone toward paying a large cast of slumming actors.  Fiddy has a small role and was one of 36 (!) credited producers, but the focus is on Josh Duhamel as a Long Beach firefighter who's in a carry-out when the owner and his son are killed by white supremacist crime lord Vincent D'Onofrio, who wants to run out the Crips who control the area.  At the urging of cynical narcotics detective Bruce Willis, who's obsessed with putting D'Onofrio behind bars, Duhamel agrees to testify but has to enter the federal witness protection program and goes into hiding in New Orleans.  Of course, D'Onofrio finds out where Duhamel is--largely because this film's version of witness protection bears no resemblance to reality--and sends hapless assassins Julian McMahon and Arie Verveen after him.  Duhamel, meanwhile, has been secretly dating the federal agent (Rosario Dawson) in charge of his case (and it seems as if her boss Kevin Dunn doesn't have a problem with it), and of course, she's now in danger as well, narrowly missing a bullet to the head that was meant for Duhamel.  Duhamel makes his way back to Long Beach and tries to start a war between D'Onofrio and the Crips, but ends up abandoning that idea and opting for the One Man Wrecking Crew approach, which means all involved parties--actors' availabilities permitting--will eventually meet for a showdown at an abandoned warehouse. 

Directed by TV veteran David Barrett (THE MENTALIST, CASTLE), FIRE WITH FIRE is bland, dull, and completely witless, filled with unconvincingly cheap CGI fire (they even CGI'd a speeding SUV in one hilarious shot that's visible in the above trailer) and bored performances by the cast:  Fiddy shows up for one scene as a gun dealer, Richard Schiff plays D'Onofrio's attorney, Bonnie Somerville is the district attorney, UFC champ Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha are a couple of Crips, Eric Winter and James Lesure are Duhamel's firefighter buddies, and Vinnie Jones is in full-on blustery fookin' 'ell, mate! mode as one of D'Onofrio's flunkies and just your typical Long Beach white power soccer hooligan.  Willis, in his third 50 Cent production since fall 2011, probably put in two or three days' work, mostly sitting at a desk looking concerned and/or constipated.  He has a scene where he's on the phone yelling at Dunn that constitutes some of the worst acting of his career, or at least his worst acting since CATCH .44.  (R, 97 mins)

(US/Canada/Luxembourg - 2012)

Perhaps miffed at not being invited to the party, Steven Seagal attempts to headline his own straight-to-DVD version of THE EXPENDABLES, just minus action, humor, pacing, recognizable names, acceptable acting, chemistry, and inspiration.  MAXIMUM CONVICTION pairs the aging action star with pro wrestling legend Steve Austin (who was actually one of the bad guys in the first EXPENDABLES) as, respectively, Cross and Manning, the leaders of "Storm," a mercenary security contracting crew of former black ops badasses.  They're hired to decommission a decrepit prison that's being shut down, but trouble comes in the form of a team of rogue US marshals led by Blake (Michael Pare).  They're after a pair of females who are temporarily being held at the prison, one of whom (Steph Song) has a chip implanted under her skin with damaging top-secret government intel.  In addition to that, some of the prison's more dangerous inmates manage to get free, causing further headaches for Seagal and Austin.  Pare actually appears to be trying here (even though he's forced to utter that old standby "We've got a lot in common, you and I," when he and Seagal finally meet face-to-face), but it's hard to get excited about these Storm guys.  The only other one anyone might recognize is British Tae Kwon Do champ Bren Foster, who comes off like a second-string Scott Adkins.  There's a reason Austin hasn't moved beyond the world of DTV:  he just has no screen presence or charisma whatsoever.  The one thing working in his favor is that he's awake, which is more than you can say for Seagal.  I had somewhat elevated hopes for MAXIMUM CONVICTION being a solid DTV actioner since it was directed by Keoni Waxman, who's handled two of Seagal's better DTV efforts (the 2009 releases THE KEEPER and A DANGEROUS MAN, the latter of which easily measures up to much of the stuff from Seagal's big-screen heyday) and clearly has the potential to move on to bigger things. Seagal must've recognized this on their previous collaborations, because he actually seems to give a shit when Waxman is directing.  That's not the case here.  He's in total coast mode, maybe not relying on his stunt double as much as in other films, but he's still using his ridiculously affected Memphis Cajun accent, and much of his dialogue is completely unintelligible. Seagal is frequently looking down or off to the side in scenes where he's talking to other people, obviously reading his lines from cue cards or a crib sheet just out of camera range.  And the whole idea of Seagal and Stone Cold teaming up is a moot point since they're separated for most of the film and obviously not even on the set at the same time in their final scene "together."  Pretty far from Seagal's worst, but there's still no reason at all to watch this.  (R, 98 mins)

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