Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||J. Lee Thompson|
Robert Gosnell &|
Jeffrey M. Rosenbaum &
Norman Aladjem (story)
Robert Gosnell (screenplay)
|Music by||Gary Chang|
|Cinematography||Álex Phillips Jr.|
|Distributed by||The Cannon Group|
Firewalker is a 1986 American action adventure-comedy film starring Chuck Norris, Louis Gossett, Jr., Will Sampson and Melody Anderson. It was directed by J. Lee Thompson and written by Norman Aladjem, Robert Gosnell and Jeffrey M. Rosenbaum. This was the first comedic role for Norris, giving him a chance to poke fun at his action persona.
Norris and Gossett play Max Donigan and Leo Porter, two soldiers of fortune, whose adventures rarely result in any notable gain. They are befriended by an inscrutable woman of mystery Patricia (Anderson). Patricia's map leads them on a quest for treasure in Central America. The name of the movie comes from the powerful guardian of the treasure.
This movie is famous for a fight scene in which Norris single-handedly defeats almost every male customer in a Mexican bar and destroys the bar in the process. Another aspect of Norris' character is his inability to properly use a firearm; in one scene, he kills a native by luck after misfiring, the result was the bullet bouncing off the walls before hitting its target.
Cast and crew
- Chuck Norris ... Max Donigan
- Louis Gossett Jr. ... Leo Porter
- Melody Anderson ... Patricia Goodwin
- Will Sampson ... Tall Eagle
- Sonny Landham ... El Coyote
- John Rhys-Davies ... Corky Taylor
- Ian Abercrombie ... Boggs
- Richard Lee-Sung ... Chinese Man / The General
- Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez ... Indian Girl
- Álvaro Carcaño ... Willie
- John Hazelwood ... Tubbs
- Dale Payne ... Pilot
- Kevin Zinter ... Co-Pilot
- Mário Arévalo ... Guerilla Leader
- Miguel Ángel Fuentes ... Big Man (as Miguel Fuentes)
The film was Norris' first comedy, even though it was still an action film. It was described as "two guys, a girl and a Jeep on the road to a fortune in lost Aztec treasure."
"It's a detour," said Norris. "Max Donegan is really the lighter side of Chuck Norris." He added, "It's just an open, friendly, warm film with a lot of humor. It has the adventure of a Romancing the Stone and Raiders of the Lost Ark, the humor of the movie Crocodile Dundee -- where the situations cause the humor -- and the companionship between the two guys like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."
Norris says that Cannon's chairman, Menahem Golan, showed "a little skepticism" when Norris first took the film to him to develop. "It's not the type of film I'm known for doing," said Norris. But Norris had a seven year deal with Cannon and was their leading box office star along with Charles Bronson. "Whether I do more lighter-type films beyond this one will be determined by how Firewalker does," said Norris. "The audience tells you what you'll be doing or not doing. Like Stallone - - he'll never do Rhinestone again."
Filming took place in Mexico in June 1986.
Norris knew he was taking a risk. He said, "When I got crucified in my first film, Good Guys Wear Black, I went to Steve McQueen. He said the bottom line is if you get the best reviews in the world and the movie bombs, you're not going to get work. But if it's a huge success, whether the criticism is good or bad, you'll work. The key thing is -- does the public accept you?"
Firewalker received overwhelmingly negative reviews. As was the case with Norris's earlier film Missing in Action (1984) with its plagiarism of Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Firewalker was widely cited as a rip-off of many adventure films of that period, particularly the Indiana Jones films, Romancing the Stone and buddy pictures like Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hrs.
On At the Movies, both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert gave the film "thumbs down". Siskel said Firewalker was "one of the most derivative films in years, imitating elements of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Romancing the Stone". He went on saying he believed "the movie was probably signed as a deal one month after the grosses started coming in for Romancing, and that was where the creativity stopped". Ebert said that he "would have tried to make a movie that didn't look like all those other adventure movies but cheap, watered-down, pale and uninteresting". In his print review, Ebert gave Firewalker 1 star out of 4:
...the film is a free-form anthology of familiar images from the works of Steven Spielberg, subjected to a new process that we could call discolorization...[the film] lacked the style, witty dialogue and magic of the current adventure pictures, as it borrowed its closing images from the Indiana Jones movies, but its press notes optimistically claim the movie is "in the tradition" of Romancing the Stone. In literature, it's called plagiarism. In the movies, it's homage.
Vincent Canby of The New York Times called the film "a bargain-basement imitation of films on the order of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Romancing the Stone". Canby also noted Norris's lack of comedic timing as he "stomped on the film's facetious dialogue". TV Guide published a largely negative review, criticizing Norris's "usual wooden" performance, the "appallingly bad" production values and the "flat, uninteresting" writing. The publication also noted Firewalker heavily "borrowing" elements from other successful adventure films, calling it "a cross between Raiders of the Lost Ark and a buddy picture".
In a review written by Rita Kempley of The Washington Post, Norris was described as pleasant galoot that lacked Arnold Schwarzenegger's (a more popular and successful action star) sense of self parody and comic timing. Kempley felt "the fight scenes were fine, but they only emphasize the plodding pace and the moldy plot; a blend of Poltergeist II, Temple of Doom and Romancing the Stone".
The film was one of Cannon's strongest performing movies at the box office. However it was a relative disappointment compared to other Norris films, earning a little over $10 million. It was ultimately considered a flop. Cannon went into financial receivership soon afterwards.
Firewalker was released on DVD by MGM Home Video March 22, 2005.
- Firewalker at Box Office Mojo
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