“Fire Down Below” – 1997. Dir. Felix Enriquez Alcala.

With Stevan Seagal, Stephen Lang, Levon Helm, Randy Travis, Marg Helgenberger with Harry Dean Stanton and Kris Kristofferson.

“Do you want me to take him out?”

“Son, you couldn’t take out a cheeseburger from a drive-through”

I own a majority of Seagal’s earlier films. I think they are so bad they are good (aside from “Under Siege” which is actually good). In “Fire Down Below” we find Seagal now an EPA Agent who gets sent to some small town in Virginia to investigate a millionaire (Kristofferson) who owns coal mines or something and has been dumping toxic waste into a river or a lake.

Seagal enters the town undercover as a Missionary through the town’s church to help people fix up their homes. The town’s preacher is Levon Helms (The Band’s front man) who introduces Seagal to the townsfolk. He takes a liking to Sarah (Helgenberger) who lives with her brother Earl (Stephen Lang) who had molested her as a child. Kinda intense for a Seagal film…

This movie is so fucking bad it’s awesome. The cast alone is sweet. Harry Dean Stanton who is always worthy of a good performance, plays the town “retard” – although he’s sharp as a tack and just plays that so Kristofferson and his goons leave him alone.

Stephen Lang is enjoyable in the typical cliché bad man role, Randy Travis is cool as a quick drawing dirty FBI Agent and Kristofferson is tough as fucking nails as the heavy. He’s so smooth and cool he rivals Dean Martin. Kristofferson just has the aura around him that just makes him so fucking cool.

The writing is vintage Seagal film – it’s so fucking campy and filled with slap yourself in the forehead one liners. I don’t know whose idea it was to have Seagal as a leading man in action films but it did work for quite a while. He had a nice little run…until he hired personal assistants as sex toys.

Review: 7/10

The Art of the Title Sequence: Michael Mann’s “Crime Story” – 1986.

I’ve always wanted to talk about the importance of the opening title sequence.  If you do it right, you’ll pull your audience in and captivate them.  I want to share some opening titles with you that have always had a profound effect on me.  The first one I want to share is from Michael Mann’s TV Show, “Crime Story” which aired for two seasons on NBC starring Dennis Farina, Ted Levine, Stephen Lang, Ron Dean, and Anthony Denison.  The show was based on the true story of “Casino” – Martin Scorsese’s film about the rebirth of Las Vegas.  The TV show included guest actors that made frequent apperances: Andrew Dice Clay (who played Robert DeNiro’s character in “Casino”), Michael Madsen, Joseph Wiseman, Julia Roberts, Pam Greir, and Kevin Spacey.

The TV show was excellent.  If I ever think about this show, I’ll always be in love with the opening credits.  Enjoy.

The Importance of Character

I have been thinking about doing this for a while. I find myself with a lot of films becoming more interested in some of the minor or supporting characters then I do the main character. It may be because of the actor portraying the supporting character, but I think it is incredibly important to have a solid supporting cast to form around your lead(s) (unless your Daniel Day-Lewis – who does a one man show in “There Will Be Blood” and “The Ballad of Jack and Rose” – granted the child actor and Paul Dano were very good in TWBB but still, come on!). And since I enjoy making lists, I wanted to list a couple of character actors that I enjoy very much, and if they are in a film – regardless of how good, mediocre, or shitty it is – I’ll give it shot.

Will Patton

Essential Works:

  • “The Punisher” as Quentin Glass
  • “No Way Out” as Scott Pritchard
  • “Remember the Titans” as Coach Bill Yoast
  • “After Hours” as Horst
  • “Everybody Wins” as Jerry
  • “Armageddon” as Chick
  • “Breakfast of Champions” as Moe the Truck Driver

Harris Yulin

Essential Works:

  • “Scarface” as Mel
  • “Clear and Present Danger” as James Cutter
  • “Training Day” as Doug Rosselli
  • “Multiplicity” as Dr. Leeds
  • “The Believers” as Robert Caldert

John Spencer

Essential Works:

  • “The West Wing” TV Series as Chief of Staff Leo McGarry
  • “Copland” as Leo Crasky
  • “Albino Alligator” as Jack
  • “The Rock” as FBI Director James Womack
  • “Presumed Innocent” as Det. Lipranzer

William Fichtner:

Essential Works:

  • “Albino Alligator” as Law
  • “Heat” as Roger Van Zant
  • “The Dark Knight” as the Bank Manager
  • “Strange Days” as Dwayne

David Morse

Essential Works:

  • “The Hurt Locker” as Col. Reed
  • “John Adams” TV Miniseries as George Washington
  • “Down in the Valley” as Wade
  • “Dancer in the Dark” as Bill Houston
  • “The Rock” as Major Tom Baxter
  • “The Crossing Guard” as John Booth

Stephen Lang

Essential Works:

  • “Crime Story” Michael Mann’s TV series as David Abrams
  • “Manhunter” as Freddy Lounds
  • “The Men Who Stare at Goats” – it’s a poor film but he is rock solid
  • “Avatar”
  • “Tombstone” as Ike Clanton
  • “Fire Down Below”
  • “Gettysburg” and “God and Generals”
  • “Public Enemies”

Jonathan Banks

Essential Works:

  • “Wiseguy” TV series as Frank McPike
  • “Dark Blue” as James Barcomb
  • “Armed and Dangerous” as Clyde
  • “Dexter” TV series as Deputy FBI Director Max Adams

“The Men Who Stare at Goats” – 2009. Dir. Grant Heslov

With George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Ewan McGregor, Robert Patrick and Stephen Lang.

“Lieutenant Colonel Django used funds from the project’s black budget to procure prostitutes…”

“That’s a lie!”

“…and drugs for himself and his men.”

“That… well, the hooker thing is definitely a lie.”

“The Men Who Stare at Goats” has to be one of the most disappointing films I have ever seen in my entire life. The story is of a down on his luck journalist (Ewan McGregor) whose wife leaves him for his one armed editor, and he fleas to Iraq to cover the war. He runs into Lyn Cassidy (George Clooney) who was trained as a “Jedi warrior” by the US Government. The two embark on a road trip to who knows where, and during their road trip Clooney reflects back to his recruitment to the “Earth Army” where the squad was lead by Jeff Bridges (in a “Big Lebowski”-esq role). Kevin Spacey plays the hard-on who is trying to derail Bridges and take control of the unit.

This is one of the best acting ensembles in film, but it is utterly wasted on a very incoherent story that lacks narrative. The exception to the wasted cast is Stephen Lang who I thought was downright hilarious and made me laugh with each frame he was in. I’ve always been a pretty big fan of Lang’s, ever since I saw him in Michael Mann’s “Manhunter” and “Crime Story”. George Clooney is the second best part, he’s goofy and insane, and he’s just having fun. To me Jeff Bridges was the real let down. I thought it was going to be fun watching him portray another beatnik. It’s not that he does a bad job; it’s just that the character is poorly written.

Ewan McGregor’s character isn’t needed in the story, and I find his poor American accent tiring. He just doesn’t bring anything to the film. The “Star Wars” references and jokes go over the top. Yeah I get it; McGregor was Obi-Wan Kenobi in the new “Star Wars” trilogy – enough already. Robert Patrick was good for the brief two minutes that he was in, and Kevin Spacey…well…Kevin Spacey. I don’t expect anything from him anymore. I think he’s become so unfathomably arrogant since “American Beauty”. I know he’s running the Old Vic in London and that’s cool, it’s really cool. But come on, has he even gotten close to the talent he holds with any of his films post “Beauty”? “Beyond the Sea” is the only exception.

Yeah the movie is funny at times. The back and forth between Bridges and Spacey is pretty good for the small scene of the military tribunal, and it is funny to see Clooney with a bad wig on but you can’t help but think couldn’t they have gotten a better script? I know its Grant Heslov’s first attempt at directing, but you can’t blame him. He’s been Clooney’s partner since they met on 2000’s live television remake of “Fail Safe” (which is EXCELLENT). He’s worked hand in hand with Clooney on all of his projects since then. It’s just not a very good movie.

I feel bad bagging on the movie because these are all actors I love and respect, especially Bridges. It’s just so incredibly frustrating watching this train wreck of a film. You should expect it to be good with just the cast alone. The one thing I do like about it is imagine how much fun these actors had all working together? They must have had some pretty good times. I found myself not wanting to see it again, aside from maybe a few Stephen Lang parts (the part where he’s reading the book in his backyard about the Russian’s putting cigarettes out on puppies and the look of disgust on his face. Or when Bridges is lecturing the men about peace and harmony and Lang is sitting with a huge smile on his face holding a flower). The fact that the film was loosely based on a true story does intrigue me, but I just can’t imagine how much of it is based on actual events. The last scene of the film was so fucking brutal I couldn’t believe it. I’m really sorry, but skip this one.

Review: 6/10