Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Lexa Doig, Ian Somerhalder, Aleks Paunovic
Directed by K.T. Donaldson
Fireball? The title of this flame-out of a film should have been Slow Burn because, boy, is this movie ever slow. You’d think a thriller about a roid-raging pyrokinetic lunatic out for revenge would crackle a lot more than this nearly catatonic Sci-Fi Channel (lack of) effort would; it generates about as much heat as a used match. What could have been an enjoyable throwback to classic b-films like The Indestructible Man will more likely put you to sleep than set you ablaze.
Ex-superstar pro football linebacker Tyler Draven is washed up, has a short fuse, and has become a public disgrace. The known wifebeater’s latest public fit of violent roid rage lands him in jail. The prison catches fire. As can only happen in b-movies and comic books, Draven has so much designer steroids flowing through his veins that the flames mix with his body chemistry to transform him into a hulking, paranoid, fireproof maniac with flame-inducing powers, who, after having lost his long mane of 80’s rocker hair in the fire, bears more than a passing resemblance to a gassed-up Don S. Davis.
Comparing his rantings before and after his genetic mutation, I would venture so far as to say gaining his magical fire powers mellowed him just a bit. The guy was all ready for a rubber room; now he’s a totally cartoonish bad guy, yet not an entertaining one. As a force to be reckoned with in a film that’s fairly straight-laced, nothing about Tyler Draven or the psychology behind his hot-tempered persona is ever developed enough to make him the least bit compelling or truly threatening. That said, he would have made for a perfect villain on an episode of that godawful “Nightman” series.
Draven sets about on a path of fiery revenge against everyone who has ever wronged him so long as they reside with a certain square mile radius. When that well dries up rather quickly, the human fireball sets his sights on killing as many innocent people as possible by using his powers to blow up a nuclear power plant.
On his trail is a fire inspector played by Lexa Doig of Jason X. The screenwriter barely bothered to write much actual dialogue for Miss Doig’s character to make her sound like an actual human being, opting instead to make her sound like Bill Nye the Science Guy’s firefighting sister constantly going into long-winded, scientifically detailed explanations about every single fire incident she has to deal with. A madman with the power to hurl fireballs and heat sand to the point of turning it into shatterable glass is running amok, and there she is to fill us in on exactly what accelerant was needed to trigger that propane tank explosion or how the heated air in someone’s lungs scorched them to death from the inside out and other such unnecessary technical explanations that do nothing to advance the plot or give us any insight into the villain’s psyche. It’s supposed to be a character quirk; more of a character irk, if you ask me, like a fire-obsessed Rain Man.
The one question about Draven’s powers she can never provide any sort of explanation for is as to why it is that his clothing is immune to fire as well. The subject of his dress never burning off never gets addressed at all.
Also pursuing Draven is a federal agent (Ian Somerhalder of “Lost” and Pulse) who was after the hot-headed ex-football playing con even before the guy gained his incinerating superpowers. Not too much to say about this guy. He looks like an emo FBI agent. He likes to smoke. He has daddy issues. He sounds as bored as the rest of us.
Don’t expect any romantic sparks between the two either, despite attempts to do just that. There’s a telling moment when this old lady overhears the two engaging in one of their boring conversations and she makes a non sequitur about how she remembers back in the day when the banter between two attractive people getting together was meant to be funny. Couldn’t help but wonder if that was the writer’s way of letting it be known even he hated having to write the unflinchingly monotonous droning that this film calls dialogue.
You can also tell Fireball was a particularly cash-strapped production. The film has the look of an episode of a Canadian television show. More emphasis on talk than action. Visual effects are skimped on as much as possible, and most of what we do get to see would have looked primitive a decade ago. One scene has Draven driving a hijacked gasoline tanker truck looking to ram the judge that sentenced him as the man goes to get into his car; we’re shown the judge screaming, Draven in the cab cackling as a bit of fire materializes just outside the windshield even before it hits, followed by a cutaway to an over-the-horizon shot of explosive flames shooting up behind a building obscuring any view of the vehicular carnage, and then back to Draven now just standing in the road completely unscathed with a little bit of fire around him and no sign of the vehicular wreckage anywhere. If that doesn’t tell you how cheap this movie is, then just wait until you see the nuclear power plant shown in the background of one scene: an unpolished matte painting right down to the motionless painted-on white smoke emanating from the stack.
The entire third act is set at that nuclear power plant. By that time I suspect most viewers will have either long since given up or fallen asleep. The director chooses this time to suddenly develop a thing for using slow motion, and let me assure you the lethargic proceedings did not need to be any slower than they already were.
1/2 out of 5
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