Firewalker

| April 17, 2015

The Internet tells us that Chuck Norris is a lot of things. He’s able to divide by zero, make onions cry, control time, and yes, cook minute rice in thirty seconds. He’s even, I’m led to believe, the reason there’s been no life discovered on Mars. There is one thing he’s not though, and that’s a magnificent actor. Before he roundhouse kicks me through my computer screen, let me clarify: Chuck Norris is indeed supremely badass, no matter what anybody says about his craft as an actor. Just look at Sidekicks (1992). That movie gave geeky kids like me legitimate hope that someday we too could transcend our bullied existences. All we had to do was wish upon a star that Chuck Norris would grace our karate tournaments with his presence. And what about 1996’s Forest Warrior? You know, the picture that proved once and for all that Chuck Norris is indeed a God… and that children pray to him! Sure, he got his ass kicked by Bruce Lee in The Way of the Dragon (1972), but he was young then and Bruce Lee won every fight. So I suppose that was to be expected.

It’s truly always been the absurdity of Chuck Norris’ stardom that’s drawn me to him, his unrelenting, legendary badassness. The man does one thing really, really well, and that’s kick ass. And last I checked that’s the #1 prerequisite of any action star. This doesn’t mean, however, that the man is much of an actor. In the right role he could shine, I’m sure, but truly the best policy to keep him jump kicking for as long a period as possible. Because of this, I am endlessly fascinated by pictures that require him to act in spite of the fact that it’s clearly a doomed enterprise from the start.

Cannon Group’s Firewalker (1986) is one such film. It succeeds in entertaining because, well, Chuck Norris. However, it seems to utterly fail in generating the kind of continuous laughs the filmmakers had intended it to provide because, well, Chuck Norris. That’s right, if you’ve not seen Firewalker, it is indeed Chuck Norris plying his acting skills at comedy to immensely curious effect. And it’s sort of an odd and glorious thing to behold really—not painful, just weird.

Chuck Norris (who must always be referred to by his full name, I find) stars in Firewalker as Max Donigan, a fortune hunting adventurer who embarks on a quest to find a legendary store of vaguely Central American gold. He’s joined by his partner in adventure, Leo (Lou Gossett Jr., Enemy Mine) in this quest initiated by the vaguely psychic Patricia (Melody Anderson, Flash Gordon). Along the way, the trio fights a host of natives and a cycloptic baddie, pose as priests and a nun to escape local law enforcement, and enlist the aid of an old friend/would-be king played by John Rhys-Davies of The Lord of the Rings franchise.

The whole thing plays out life a cut-rate Indiana Jones picture (an easy comparison given Rhys-Davies’ involvement in both this and the Indiana Jones films), but is interesting in and of itself for the sole reason that it gives Chuck Norris a chance to lampoon his previously dead serious action persona. Is that enough to carry an entire film? For me it is, but I realize other viewers might expect more. And who knows? Maybe you’ll find what you’re looking for in the simple joy of watching a Cannon film or in the more capable performances of Gossett and Rhys-Davies even. If what you’re looking for is a capably comedic adventure film that isn’t Indiana Jones, I would probably more readily recommend Philippe de Broca’s That Man from Rio (1964) and Up to His Ears (1965), which I recently quite enjoyed. But I find Firewalker to offer its own unique joys, housed somewhere in its failed attempt at a Chuck Norris comedy.

If you’re like me and can’t resist a Blu-ray of a Chuck Norris/Cannon Group film, though, note that Firewalker is soon coming to Blu-ray from Olive Films on April 21, 2015. The disc boasts a cleaner and clearer transfer than the average cinema snob might deem a Cannon film worthy of having. This is also another release from Olive on which they simply let the film speak for itself, presenting the film on an otherwise barebones, special feature-less disc, which is all right by me since we wouldn’t have access to Firewalker in HD otherwise. One thing I do have to say for the release is it does, to its credit, feature probably the best main menu I’ve seen on an Olive disc to date, effectively reappropriating the film’s stylish, painted poster art.

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
Filed in: Video and DVD

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