Friday, November 11, 2016

Firewalker (1986)

Whoa-ho boy.  It's been far too long since I last talked about a Cannon Films/Chuck Norris action flick, and I think now's as good a time as any to revisit the 80s' greatest hero.

For this week, I decided to cover the one Chuck Norris movie I've seen more than any other - Firewalker.  When I was a kid, this movie was on HBO or some other cable channel ALL THE TIME.  It's just a good old fashioned Chuck Norris flick that tries so hard to be Indiana Jones.  Also Academy Award Winner Lou Gossett is there too.  And Melody Anderson who I think almost every guy my age had a crush on, thanks in no small part to Flash Gordon.

This was the type of movie that no matter the time of day it came on, I watched it in its entirety.  It's also the type of movie, when you watch it as an adult, does not stand up to the lovely memories you had as a kid.  Still, it holds that special place in your heart and  you just can't help but love this turkey.

I still have such deep feelings for it that I actually bought the movie on DVD.  Therefore, it's the back of that box where I'll take our synopsis: "After a long career of mishaps, wrong turns, and utter failures, archaeological adventurers Max and Leo (Norris and Gossett) are read to call it quits... Until a spunky blonde beauty (Anderson) with an ancient treasure map hires them to guide her into Central America to find Aztec gold.  But as they draw closer to the priceless bounty, they are unaware that a powerful, vengeful spirit is tracking their every move and will stop at nothing to protect the sacred treasures!"

Doesn't this just sound like a blast?  Also, I do love me some treasure maps, Aztec gold, and, naturally, spunky blonde beauties!

Our movie starts in the desert with Chuck Norris and Lou Gossett driving through the dunes in a Jeep being chased and shot at by Arabs.  In true Cannon style, the Arabs are shouting, cackling bad guys who happily shoot willy nilly at our heroes.  They wreck into an oasis.  I can already say that the choice of the word "stinkin'" in the place of dropping f-bombs is already a bad sign.  Cannon should not make PG rated movies, goddammit.  Also, there's so much banter and schtick between these two...  Ugh...  Chuck Norris should never do comedy.  Ever.

No, really, he's got the comedic timing of the Holocaust.

Okay so they are tied down and left to die in the sun while holding a very well placed bottle of Perrier (to get that sweet, sweet product placement).  The savages ride off. Leo and Max keep up the chatty banter and, at five minutes in, I'm already tired of it.  Thankfully, Max breaks the bottle of Perrier in his bare hands because he's fucking Chuck Norris.  He uses the broken glass to cut the ropes and they escape.

Say what you will, Chuck's outfit is kinda jaunty.
At their favorite dive bar, the lovely Patricia (Melody Anderson) walks in to save this movie - at least for the eyes.  She hires our bumbling archaeologists because she has acquired a map she believes leads to a massive amount of gold.  When asked how she came to this conclusion, she says that someone is willing to kill for the map she has.  She goes on to explain that the thing willing to kill for it is some sort of giant cyclops with long black hair (spoilers, it's just some Indian guy with an eye patch who is known as The Coyote).  This is met with, admittedly appropriate, skepticism.  Even Chuck Norris is able to portray that.  That's how suspect this whole thing is.  He didn't even need Lou Gossett's Academy Award-winning talents to show that.  When a Native American guy attempts to kill the trio, they suddenly take Patricia's story to be at least somewhat credible.

So with no further conversation, the three of them are off on a grand adventure to Central America!

The whole trip, Patricia has to hear Max's dumb stories about how he and Leo have conquered the elements and animals alike in their many adventures.  Chuck Norris has too many lines in this movie.  I expect him to do more kicking and punching and less of this line reading.  Anyway, the three of them climb up a sacred cliff to find a cave, but don't know a giant Central American dude is following and watching them.  When they enter the cave, Patricia says they can't go in because there are old people sleeping in there and they shouldn't disturb them.  Why she thinks that?  I dunno.  They find a bunch of skeletons to which Leo says must be the old people sleeping.

Just in case you you think the banter and ribbing is limited to Max and Leo, when Patricia wanders off, Max says he swears he will get a leash for her.  Apparently, there were originally a whole bunch of other scenes of her wandering off and getting them into all sorts of trouble.  We just don't get to see them.  We do get to see them all desecrating dead people's remains.  Patricia is taken hostage by some natives protecting the cave.  That's when we're shown another running joke.  Not only do we have to hear all the inane bantering, but we have to suffer through how bad Max is at shooting guns and hitting targets.   They are able to save Patricia when Max threatens to kill the guy who took her hostage with a mystical knife they found.  When the ruby on the knife glows, it makes the bad guy jump off the cliff to his death.  At least Chuck's line "Jeez, I didn't tell him to jump." earned a giggle from me.

They go to speak to an elder on a reservation who happens to be played by Will Sampson, best known as "Chief" in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest - which is the very best movie I have ever seen.  He tells them about the some folklore that concerns the Aztecs and a preacher known as "Firewalker".  He warns them about the "Coyote" and how he is very treacherous.  He gives Patricia some bone dust to protect her from evil spirits that will speak to her on this journey.

Before they head out on their journey to San Miguel, Chief chants away in competition with Coyote.  Chief is trying to reach Patricia while it seems Coyote is controlling a sexy squaw who is sent to assassinate Max.  We get some nice girl fight when Patricia wakes up just in time to wrestle with the native girl.  But it's a good thing Chief can talk to Leo in his dreams too because he's needed to finally knock out the native girl.  Since Max was drugged, it gives Patricia and Leo a chance to talk about their adventure and why Leo and Max stick together.

This is what the sum total of all the bad ideas of giving Chuck
Norris a comedy looks like.
They fly to San Miguel.  That is not a real country by the way.  It is a real beer though.  So maybe they are going to find the treasure in a brewery.  That would be a great way to end this movie.

Lou Gossett and Chuck Norris are both pretty annoying in this movie, but dammit if Melody Anderson isn't just the cutest thing ever.  She's bubbly, spunky, and kind of a ray of sunshine in this silly little movie.  And despite Gossett and Norris being a couple squabbling children, I cannot deny that this movie still holds a lot of charm.  At the very least, it is a decent production.  I mean, it does look like a real movie. So I will give it that.

But then again, Melody Anderson is so damn beautiful, you can look past a lot of the negatives in the script.

When they get to San Miguel, there's a bunch of bullshit that happens (including Max and Patricia's meet cute that involves him finding out she sleeps in the nude - both gross because Chuck Norris isn't that great of a leading man and also not true because we've already seen her sleep in a t-shirt and I definitely saw panty lines under that shirt).  They punch a couple guys to get into a bar.  They buy some info from a British guy inside the bar.  They get into a bar fight.  While this is actually the funniest part of the movie, with the two gringos trying to settle into their surroundings, and charming by way of character development, it's also, oddly, the most boring part of the movie.

Until Chuck Norris starts karate kicking the shit out of a bunch of Latinos when a couple guys kiss-rape Patricia.

He leaves the bar in ruins with knocked out/possibly dead Hispanics strewn about the floor.

The guy they bought info from meets with Coyote and rats out our heroes.  All the while, Coyote is reading an issue of Marvel Comics' Psi Force.  Wow.  I think the only person to ever read that book was a fictional character.  Anyway, when the British guy asks for payment, Coyote crushes his face with his bare hands.

Alright, so here's the sitch...  The people of San Miguel aren't too pleased with these gringos trying to get to their most sacred area of the country - "the Interior".  They were barely able to get out of the bar without a little dust up.  And by dust up, I mean utterly destroying the craniums of about 30 vatos.  So they pose as two Catholic Priests and a Nun to board a train - but have no papers.  Soldiers stop the car and drag some people off and even shoot a couple of them.  A soldier asks for their papers and are taken out of their cabin but they are told to deliver last rites to the guy who they shot.  Of course, Max and Leo argue about who will do it and almost get killed over fighting over who will act most like an actual pious person.  Turns out the guy they administer the last rites to is going to survive and his wife think it is a miracle they performed.

And we all know it's because Chuck Fuckin' Norris was there that the miracle happened.

Our heroes get off the train at their destination, but they are hardly out of the woods yet.  Not only are the locals going to notify Coyote that they are there, but the military is a bit of a problem too.  They get chased into a field and split up.  When Leo is caught, one of the most amazing visuals from the 80s happens...

This movie is barely halfway through and Chuck Norris has hospitalized half of Central America.

Patricia is able to escape by faking fainting and getting the gun from a drunk soldier who wants to rape her.  For real, this PG rated movie has now twice implied that a Latino will straight up fucking rape a blonde America with little to no provocation.

At the camp they set up, Coyote uses some mojo on Patricia and almost gets her to walk away from the camp to hand over the knife.  She's only able to resist it when Max tells her to not wander off.  When the local militia find them, they are nearly decapitated, if not for John Rhys-Davies coming along to save their heads... literally.  They all party and all the dudes dance with Patricia in a torrential downpour.

I'd be up for some fun, delightful dancing with Melody Anderson in the pouring rain.

There are more "war stories" told about how awesome Max is so we can all understand that Chuck Norris is a badass.  Goddamn there are still 35 minutes left in this movie,  I know this is all expository and stuff and it helps build some character for Max, but shouldn't that have happened in the first 35 minutes?  He and Leo were so busy squabbling, they had to expand the movie's runtime to make their characters seem like real people as opposed to two-dimensional cartoons.

On top of that, the scenes with John Rhys-Davies has a completely different tone.  He's this broken down adventurer that scares Max because he doesn't want to become like him.  Then, when they leave there's this overly sad moment when Rhys-Davies happily wishes them off, but as they drive away, he gets this really sad look on his face, and when Patricia asks Max if he thinks he will ever see him again, Max sadly says, "No."

That's the movie I want to see.  That was actually an awesome moment that was all around well acted.  It fleshes out Max in a way that the first 65 minutes couldn't.  It also opens up a portion of the movie where it seems like Max and Leo kinda realize they are on their last adventure.  Max knows this life drove Rhys-Davies' character seemingly insane.  Leo knows Max is falling in love with Patricia and likely settling down.  It turns into a real movie for a moment.  When Leo gets abducted by the bad guys, it actually kinda continues on this more serious path because Max blames himself for all that might be happening to Leo, and it's a much better movie.

When rescued, it appears Lou Gossett's stunt double had to
endure some serious testicular trauma.
We FINALLY enter the final act of the movie.  Patricia and Max carry on and find the temple they've set out to find from the very beginning.  Initially, they only find sealed doors, but when Patricia sees a figure run through an opened door, they follow.  They continue to find passageways deeper into the temple.  Almost each thing they touch or reach room they enter activates a trigger to open another passageway.  It's that booby trap thing that we see in a bunch of old adventure movies that's just fun.

They do find Leo in a room hanging over a hot spring that's boiling.  Coyote offers them a trade - Leo for the knife.  Coyote agrees that they can go free if they hand over the knife.  He lets Patricia go first, then traps her so he can sacrifice her to call forth the Firewalker.  Max tries to kill Coyote by throwing the knife at him but he catches it.  So, now he has both Patricia and the knife - all he needs to do his evil thing.  Max frees Leo so they can rescue Patricia.

Don't these guys look like they just had the time of their lives?
Buncha yucksters.
Elsewhere, Coyote corners Patricia and seemingly hypnotizes her so he can sacrifice her to the Firewalker or something.  It would seem that since he's this giant dude, he could save his powers and just knock her out of something.  But I guess he actually has to put a whammy on her to go through with the sacrifice.  Must be some sort of Aztec ritual rule or something.  Also, wouldn't it seem that just sacrificing a white woman might sully the ceremony itself?  Don't you think it should be something like a native virgin with pure blood or something?  I'm not expert, but it seems as though that would be the case.

Just before Coyote sacrifices Patricia, Max and Leo storm in and Max shoots Coyote.  That's... kinda anti-climatic.  I guess it finishes the whole Max is bad at shooing thing, but frankly, you would kind of expect Max and Coyote to like duke it out, but they don't.  I mean you have a big, muscular dude and Chuck Norris.  Let's not have them fight.  Nah, it's cool.  This story doesn't need an exciting conclusion.

They do find out how the knife plays into the treasure and find all the gold you can handle making their journey worth it.  However, before they leave Coyote jumps out and attacks them.  He tries to face crush Leo and that's when Max and Coyote finally get their fight scene, but it only lasts for a moment as Coyote is a pretty tough dude.  As he tries to face crush Max, Patricia plunges the knife into Coyote's back.  To finally put him down, Max kicks him.  Patricia pours the bone dust onto Coyote and he burns to ashes.  The trio retire to a picturesque and secluded paradise in Fiji.

Except the guy at the beginning who tied Max and Leo to posts in the desert and left them to die is the bartender at the restaurant they are relaxing at...  Can't wait for that sequel!

Overall, this is far from the worst of the worst.  In fact, it's a fun little adventure.  The 80s were full of little crappy, family-targeted movies like this.  Oddly, they were probably mostly produced by Cannon Films.  The comedy elements in this film fall real flat.  The true heart to this movie is when everyone is playing it straight.  You actually like Max and Leo when they aren't bickering at each other.  Also, that bar fight scene was just amazing in its Chuck Norris-ness.

It's Melody Anderson though that kinda steals the show for me.  She was always so damn pretty and cute in everything I ever saw her in.  However, her career was fairly short lived.  She had roles on TV and in movies for about 20 years and then disappeared from the limelight for the last 20 years.  She'll show up every now and then at a convention since many in my generation know her best as Dale Arden in 1980's Flash Gordon.  Instead of continuing to act, she went into social work and now lectures about addiction in families.  So good for her.

That's not going to stop me from crushing on her pretty hardcore though...
I mean, how can you not?
That does it for this week's B-Movie Enema.  Come back next week when a modern master of horror takes on mutant vampire guys in a post-apocalyptic future.  Yeah, I'm gonna do a good movie and another vampire movie just after having done an entire month of them.

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