Fire Down Below (1997)
Directed by Félix Enríquez Alcalá

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* ½

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Jack Taggart (Steven Seagal), a federal agent working for the Environmental Protection Agency, discovers that a rich villain is using a mine in rural Kentucky as a toxic waste dump and sets out to protect the good and decent countryfolk from this fiend and to make him pay for his crimes.

Félix Enríquez Alcalá's Fire Down Below is truly atrocious. There is hardly anything complimentary that can be said about the film. The acting ranges from wooden to embarrassing. The script is ludicrous. The action sequences are boring, and the story is, frankly, silly.

If the viewer is able to laugh at Seagal's bloated ego, which is so constantly oozing from his arched brows and dripping from his ponytail onto his black, fringed leather jacket that it threatens to drown every other element in every scene in which the actor appears, he will, however, find much in this horrendous film to amuse him. In fact, anyone appreciative of the performer's inept acting, his silly costumes, his incessant preaching, or his lethargic fighting style may be entertained by Fire Down Below. A number of the action sequences featuring Seagal are made especially enjoyable as a result of the director's avoidance of actually showing the paunchy, lumbering actor doing much of anything that would require him to move quickly, or even to move much at all. Instead, the viewer is presented with some bodiless hand reaching out from the side of the screen to pummel each villainous rogue who dares stand up against the wise, earthy, and undefeatable hero.

Despite his overwhelmingly abysmal talents, and his own conversely high estimation of them, Seagal is not the only ghastly element in the film. There are outrageously evil enemies, vast quantities of schmaltz, and several twists that fail to make complete sense. The movie's single worst fault, other than its protagonist, is, however, its subplot about a family of incestuous hillbillies. Fortunately, this little tale is so ridiculous, overwrought, and hammy that it does provide a number of genuinely funny moments. Although I believe that that the director was attempting to arouse a sense of tragedy, the clumsiness he displays in developing this particular part of his story is so extreme that he is only able to elicit laughter, never sadness.

Even with its unintentionally humorous elements, Fire Down Below is just dreadful. The potential viewer would probably enjoy cleaning his toenails far more than he would watching this horrid tripe.

Review by Keith Allen

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