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STDVD: Firefight

July 15, 2009

Okay, as I prepared to watch the latest low-budget STDVD from the cellar of my collection, I took note of the obvious warning signs:

  • Shot in Canada, but pretending to be the U.S.
  • Made by a studio I’ve never heard of (Artsy Fartsy Pictures. Really.)
  • Stars a non-Alec Baldwin brother, in this case Stephen. Stephen Baldwin is rapidly becoming the go-to guy for STDVDs.
  • Stephen Baldwin plays a criminal named Wolf. Ooh, will he be wearing leather and riding a motorcycle? Check.
  • Also stars Nick Mancuso, with his name credited in such a way that I know before I press play that he’s in the movie for about five minutes.

But then I’m pleasantly surprised. This isn’t art. It isn’t artsy fartsy. It isn’t even good enough to be a TV movie. But somebody put a lot of heart into it. Perhaps it was director Paul Ziller, or executive producer … wait, I just noticed this. The movie’s executive producer is Roger Corman. Well, okay then.

While Baldwin and Mancuso get top billing, they aren’t the stars. Baldwin is the villain, and Mancuso stops by long enough to spell his name for the person who designed the DVD label. The actual star is Steve Bacic, a Canadian actor best known for his roles in Andromeda (a Canadian series based on something Gene Roddenberry wrote down in his sleep one night), Battlestar Galactica, The Guard and X-Men 2 (he had a brief cameo as a non-furry Hank McCoy).

I wouldn’t call Bacic a great actor, but he sure looks good. In Firefight, he plays a volunteer forest firefighter who used to be a thief. He’s gone straight, but his small-town diner is bleeding money and his time is being burned up by a killer forest fire season. When he risks his life in a daring rescue of millions from a bank’s armoured car that’s trapped in a forest fire, he expects gratitude — but the bank is about to take his home and diner anyway.

This is when his ex shows up. She’s teamed with Wolf (Stephen Baldwin, who is, I’m sorry, not frightening in the least) and one of the armoured car drivers. They have a plan to steal millions. Will our hero pull a Robin Hood, stealing insured millions from a heartless bank so he can keep serving grilled cheeses to truckers?

The first half of the film works. The second becomes very, very strange, and hard to follow. I got the impression that Baldwin pushed for more screen time, because he suddenly becomes the main character, hamming it up badly. You can actually see him thinking about who he plans to vote for on American Idol in the middle of some scenes. He’s that distracted.

But the movie works, all in all, despite its cheapness. And there’s one reason for that: fire. Shooting in fire is tricky. This movie pulls it off. I found myself believing that the cast was surrounded by deadly flame, with no way out, over and over and over again. Plus there’s a kickass Sikh security guard, and that’s a character you aren’t likely to see in any mainstream movies.

I wouldn’t recommend paying money for this, unless you see it in a dollar bin. But if it comes on late at night, you won’t regret 90 stupid minutes spent watching a fun caper flick.

NOTE: This movie is so obscure the trailer isn’t online. If there even was a trailer.

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