Fire Down Below

*

Steven Seagal returns in another enviro-epic, and, though this one isn't as abyssmal as On Deadly Ground, there's not much to it.

Seagal stars as Jack Taggart, an investigator for the EPA. A millionaire industrialist, Orin Hanner (Kris Kristofferson), has been dumping toxic waste in abandoned coal mines outside of his hometown, rural Jackson, Kentucky. Three previous federal agents who have investigated the illegal dumping have been killed by Hanner's minions.

Seagal doesn't have to discover this. In a brief prelude before the opening credits, he is informed of every significant plot development. It is as if the film recognizes that plots are irrelevant in a Steven Seagal film, and as a pesky nuisance does away with all of it at the earliest possible convenience.

What's left for the rest of the film is Seagal beating up on Hanner's redneck henchmen. Of course, as Seagal goes to extreme lengths to explain, most Kentucky people are good folk, and only the aberrant few are evil rednecks. And it is only with those few that Seagal wipes the floor.

The only character in Fire Down Below who has more than a single dimension is Sarah Kellogg (Marg Helgenberger), the town outcast to whom Seagal takes a liking. And though her family troubles are a little contrived, compared to the numbing blandness that fills the village of Jackson, she stands out.

Seagal, for his part, has given up any and all pretense at acting. He wanders around with his one facial expression: an arrogant, knowing smirk. His action scenes are so one-sided that nobody in the film ever lays a finger on him. It gets boring. In most movies, the fix is in...you know the good guys are going to win, but at least they do their best to pretend otherwise. Not so in Fire Down Below.

Some of the fight scenes are fun, but the movie is like playing solitaire with a stacked deck, and the whole thing gets old fast.


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