Soldiers of fortune, Max Donigan (Chuck Norris, Code of Silence) and Leo Porter (Lou Gossett, An Officer and A Gentleman), are ever the adventurers … with little to show for their exploits. When presented with a treasure map by the mysterious Patricia (Melody Anderson, Flash Gordon), Max and Leo imagine fame and fortune are within their grasp. However, they must contend with the guardian of the treasure in order to secure their bounty in Firewalker which costars John Rhys-Davies (Raiders of The Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade) and Will Sampson (One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest).
"Jeez, I didn't tell him to jump!"
Where would we be without The Cannon Group? Without Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus and their wily abilities to fund and yet underfund countless moves from the late 70s through the 80s, we as movie goers would have lost out on countless hours of entertainment. Note I did not say "quality entertainment." Entertainment is a relative term and I use it here in the sense that the movie is so bad yet so thoroughly endlessly fun that you can't help but to be totally entertained by what is being projected on screen. Continuing their successful relationship after films like 'Missing in Action' and 'Invasion U.S.A.,' Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus teamed up once again with Chuck Norris to give the world a cheap 'Indiana Jones' knockoff with 1986's 'Firewalker.'
Treasure hunter Max, Chuck Norris, and his partner Leo, Louis Gossett Jr. find themselves completely out of luck and out of money after ticking off the exact wrong people. As they consider throwing in the towel on their profitless fortune seeking adventures, the two men are approached by Patricia, Melody Anderson, who brings with her a mysterious map that apparently points the direction to a gigantic fortune of Mayan and Aztec gold. With nothing else going for them, Max and Leo decide to give their fortune hunting venture one last go, only they don't anticipate having to face dangerous obstacles and thwart assassination attempts at the hands of the diabolical El Coyote, Sonny Landham.
Considering I was basically able to sum up the entire film within a single paragraph should give you an idea for the type of film you're in for. Much like 'Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold' Tom Landy had to endure, 'Firewalker' treads the same cheaply constructed sets, dopey dialogue, hammy acting, and borderline culturally insensitive depictions of native peoples throughout the Americas. I tip my hat to 'Firewalker' over 'Allan Quatermain' simply because this one feels much more self aware than the latter. This one at least attempts to have a sense of humor on purpose, rather than on accident. That isn't to say the jokes land as intended, but there are a few genuine yuks to enjoy.
Part of what helps is the commitment of the cast. Gossett doesn't seem to be letting his recent Oscar win keep him from having a good time partnered up with Chuck Norris. In this relationship, Gossett is the straight man to Norris' jokester who also happens to know how to throw down some impressive karate kicks when and where needed. Then you have Melody Anderson who appears to be doing anything and everything she can to give her character more to do than be a simple damsel in destress. But the true lynchpin of the show is Chuck Norris. Throughout all of his movies, Norris has had what I find to be an odd screen presence - or a complete screen absence depending on the film. In some of his movies he looks like a guy who could care less to be in that particular movie at that particular day. Then you have this one where he looks like he's having a pretty good time running around digging up buried treasure while fighting off ancient Mayan/Aztec warriors.
While I am giving this movie three of five stars, I have to admit 'Firewalker' is hardly a great movie. Calling it a good movie is even debatable. What 'Firewalker' is is a fun bad movie to enjoy with a group of like-minded friends. Riffing the movie is pointless because it seems to be making fun of itself. Going into this review, I had fond memories of my dad bringing home a cheap extended play VHS copy of this movie from Sam's club when I was a kid. I remember my dad and I enjoying the hell out it, but knowing that it was still a really bad movie. I'm glad to see that the enjoyable badness still holds up well and is delightfully bad. It's hard to recommend this movie in earnest since it just isn't that kind of movie. 'Firewalker' is a pizza and beer movie through and through - so if you decide to give this one a go, make sure you have plenty of both on hand!
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Firewalker' arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Olive Films. Pressed on a BD25 disc, the movie opens to a main menu that only offers a play and chapters selections.
'Firewalker' has a so so 1.85:1 1080p HD transfer working for it. While a vast improvement over my Laserdisc copy which in turn was the same master for the now out of print DVD, it still is a very dated master without much to sing praises about. As film grain is retained, detail is actually quite strong offering for some great looking shots, in particular the daylight scenes. Many scenes have a bright haze running through them, but this appears to be intentional and are actually part of the movie - I don't know if this was employed to hide the cheap sets or not, but it's noticeable and can diminish the overall image quality. Given that is a dated master, there is quite a bit of edge enhancement going on here as haloing can pop up with a bit of banding in places. Black levels are okay-ish. Some scenes are a bit more stable than others while some shots look like contrast was kicked up a notch or two making the image look flat at times. Colors are overall spot on and strong as flesh tones look and feel natural and primaries have a nice pop them. The print is in okay shape, there are some occasional nicks and specks - the opening titles look the worst with the optical overlays intermittently softening the picture and bringing with each credit some dirt and intense film grain. Not the worst, but far and away from the best HD transfer out there.
'Firewalker' gets some bonus points for the DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. The film levels sound nice and even throughout the run of this film with dialogue, sound effects and music occupying equal space. Imaging is pretty good, there just aren't that many scenes for it to show off. There are a couple scattered action sequences that really come alive, but otherwise the sound is even, but rather flat feeling. It just never comes alive for whatever reason. There aren't any hisses or other damage to the track of any kind, it just isn't that impressive. It's serviceable for a movie of this vintage that few if anyone was clamoring for a Blu-ray of. I doubt a full on 5.1 restoration would have helped any, this feels like a movie where a lot of the dialogue was done over in ADR so unless they broke down each individual element, the sound will always feel kind of hollow.
No supplemental material present.
For the lovers of delightfully bad cinema, 'Firewalker' feels like one of those movies that is an absolute must see. Like 'Gymkata' or 'Road House' - you just need to watch it, embrace its badness and just have fun with it or at its expense. In all honestly, no matter how much I gush - 'Firewalker' is a bad movie. A bad movie that is good in its total and complete badness. My only wish for this title is that it had been given a full once over on the image side of things. For such a fun colorful movie, it could look a whole hell of a lot better. Some extra features wouldn't have hurt either, I've always wanted to ask Louis Gossett Jr. about this one and 'Jaws 3D.' As it stands, 'Firewalker' is one for the fans simply because there are probably very few of us who would admit to loving this movie openly, few who would recommend people see it, and probably fewer still who would happily own this movie on Blu-ray.