Fire Down Below (1997 film)

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Fire Down Below
Fire Down Below.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFélix Enríquez Alcalá
Screenplay by
Story byJeb Stuart
Produced by
CinematographyTom Houghton
Edited byRobert A. Ferretti
Music byNick Glennie-Smith
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • September 5, 1997 (1997-09-05)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$24.5 million[1]

Fire Down Below is a 1997 American action film starring Steven Seagal and directed by Félix Enríquez Alcalá in his directorial debut. The film also includes cameos by country music performers Randy Travis, Mark Collie, Ed Bruce, Marty Stuart and Travis Tritt, and country-rocker and the Band member Levon Helm, as well as Kris Kristofferson in a supporting role.[2] Steven Seagal plays Jack Taggert, an EPA agent who investigates a Kentucky mine and helps locals stand up for their rights. The film was released in the United States on September 5, 1997.


In the peaceful Appalachian hills of eastern Kentucky, toxins are being dumped into abandoned mines, causing environmental havoc, but the locals, mindful of their jobs and the power of the mine owners, can do nothing. EPA CID agent Jack Taggert is sent to investigate, after a fellow agent, revealed to be Jack’s friend and partner, is found dead, probably not by accident. The EPA has received an anonymous letter from Jackson, Kentucky, and Taggert goes there undercover to continue his colleague's investigations.

It is discovered that Hanner Coal Company, owned by Orin Hanner Sr., is being paid to dump toxic waste into an abandoned coal mine shaft, so Jack is assigned to go to the small town of Jackson, where his cover is that of assistant and volunteer carpenter to a local church. He stays in a room in the church's basement, and begins his cover work by repairing the roof at a house where one of the children is sick because of the pollution. He attempts to question the family, but they do not have much to say. He has little better results elsewhere; even the man who tipped off the EPA is decidedly taciturn. While testing the water, Taggert wanders into a local marijuana field, and is accosted by the growers. After disarming them, he tells them that he has no interest in arresting them.

The men responsible for the other agent's death soon notice Taggert's presence. As a newcomer to the small local community, he is threatened by Hanner's son Orin, Jr. (Brad Hunt), the incompetent local tool of the company, the corrupt local Sheriff Lloyd Foley, and several thugs that work for them. The thugs in question start by leaving two rattlesnakes in his dwelling; Taggert responds by capturing the snakes alive and leaving them in the pickup that the thugs were driving, causing them to crash. Soon after, five of them attack him while he is buying supplies, and receive a severe beating as a result. Orin then orders one of his truck drivers to arrange an "accident" by running him off the road, but Taggert escapes alive while the driver is killed after falling off an open-pit mine cliff.

While these conflicts are occurring, Taggert strikes up a relationship with Sarah Kellogg, a young woman who lives in the town. She is regarded as an outcast because of her father's murder, a crime of which she was accused but not convicted. Eventually, she agrees to testify against Orin and his people, much to the anger of her estranged brother Earl, who actually committed the murder, after their father found out about his sexual abuse against her. Earl is revealed to be working as one of Hanner's thugs, and sets the church on fire, in the process killing the preacher who was helping Taggert. He then attempts to collapse the mine with Taggert inside it. Taggert escapes, while several mercenaries are killed, including Earl.

With evidence and a witness, Taggert calls the FBI to take Sarah into protective custody. However, they are revealed to be corrupt, and a firefight ensues. Taggert kills one agent, then sends the second back to Orin with a message that he will be coming for him next. However, when Orin is arrested and charged, he gets off with a slap on the wrist for the environmental violations. Taggert goes back into the town and fights his way past the last of Orin Jr's thugs, then demands the truth from him. Orin agrees to turn state's evidence, implicating his father on racketeering, conspiracy, and murder charges. Taggert goes to a casino to arrest Orin, Sr. Upon hearing about the reception awaiting him in federal prison, Orin produces a gun and resists, but Taggert shoots him in the shoulder and he is taken into custody. Taggert then returns to Jackson, where he is reunited with Sarah.



The film was shot on location in and around Kentucky; parts of the "truck chase scene" were shot at Natural Bridge State Resort Park. Some of the opening scenes were filmed at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. The cave scenes were filmed in the Great Saltpetre Cave.[3] This was the third, and final time that Kane Hodder worked with Seagal as a stuntman.[4]

Seagal liked the film in part because it was "kind of an environmental movie." He also enjoyed working with Helgenberger. "While I don’t think she’s a physical, spectacular, drop dead gorgeous woman, at the same time she’s a spectacular actress," said Seagal. "Her performance was wonderful."[5]


Box office[edit]

Fire Down Below was released on September 5, 1997. It grossed $6 million on its opening weekend in the United States and Canada and went on to gross $16.2 million plus $8.3 million internationally for a worldwide total of $24.5 million.[1][6]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 14% based on 28 reviews, with an average rating of 3.5/10.[7] On Metacritic the film has a score of 40 out of 100, based on reviews from 13 critics.[8] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B−" on an A+ to F scale.[9]


The film was nominated for four Razzie Awards:[10]

Seagal was also nominated for Worst Actor at the Stinkers Bad Movie Awards but lost to Tom Arnold for McHale's Navy.[11]


  1. ^ a b Klady, Leonard (February 9, 1998). "The Top 125". Variety. p. 31.
  2. ^ Seymour, Gene (1997-09-08). "Steven Seagal Foils Toxic Villains in 'Fire'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-25.
  3. ^ "Great Saltpetre Cave Articles and Documents". Rockcastle Karst Conservancy, Inc. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
  4. ^ "Interview with Jason (Kane Hodder)". Unrated Magazine. 7 October 2022.
  6. ^ "Fire Down Below". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2015-05-17.
  7. ^ "Fire Down Below (1997)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2021-05-02.
  8. ^ "Fire Down Below". Metacritic.
  9. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  10. ^ Wilson, John (2007). "Eighteenth Annual Razzies (1997)". The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywoods Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 9780446510080.
  11. ^ "The Stinkers 1997 Ballot". The Stinkers. Archived from the original on 18 August 2000. Retrieved 4 September 2019.

External links[edit]