Open Fire (1994)

Elitist fancy pants action movie fans routinely dismiss Open Fire as merely “Die Hard in a chemical plant”. True scholars of the bargain bin late 1980s and 1990s direct to video action movie shelf fillers know that Open Fire is actually Deadly Outbreak but with a brown haired guy who kicks people in the face instead of a black haired guy doing it.

But even that nuanced a comparison doesn’t really convey the breadth of differences between that film and Open Fire. While Deadly Outbreak starred the likably cool Jeff Speakman, a kenpo expert who made a whole passel of passable action movies (The Perfect Weapon, The Expert, Street Knight, Scorpio One) that most people have never heard of, Open Fire stars the granite-like Jeff Wincott, whose lack of emotion and charisma is so absolute that a cardboard cut out of fellow C-list action icon David Bradley (American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt) would surely by the life of any party that both happened to be attending.

While Wincott is obviously not really any good at anything movie related other than being jacked up and flexible enough to kick really high, he is also never asked to do anything (like speaking or otherwise moving a single atom in his face) that leaves him looking particularly bad. Paradoxically, this leaves the viewer less involved in the film than if he was hilariously horrible. So we have him moving from scene to scene in Open Fire looking for another bad guy to kick which sounds great in theory, but since nothing remarkably good or bad happens, you just stop paying attention until you get the sense that he’s finally run out of underlings to beat down and is ready to face the main bad guy.

The film also lets him down in that unlike his PM Entertainment actiongasm Last Man Standing his character in Open Fire is not asked to participate in any spectacular stunts other than jumping on top of a van. Even worse for an action movie that can’t afford much action, he isn’t provided any sort of witty dialogue to taunt the bad guys with. The best he can muster is to say “ouch” as he watches a dude fall to his death after tossing him off a catwalk! I was saying “ouch” quite a bit during Open Fire myself!

The plot instantly causes your suspension of disbelief to suffer a catastrophic failure. A super criminal named Kruger is in prison yet somehow still retains a team of allegedly elite mercenaries. The main talent his mercenaries exhibit is a technique wherein they go one by one every ten minutes or so to search the chemical plant to find the guy (Wincott’s Alec McNeil) who killed the last elite merc who went off by himself to find him.

But while they had no credible plan to deal with an ex-FBI agent who plays by his own rules (we see in a flashback that doing so got his partner killed and that’s why he left the FBI to run a jackhammer with his shirt off in the hot sun causing his pecs to glisten in the movie’s most satisfying moment), they had all sorts of complicated schemes to gain Kruger’s release and ensure his escape to Brazil.

Describing their plan takes longer than actually executing plan. The team of mercs captures a chemical plant, take the staff hostage, start brewing up nerve gas, demand that Kruger be brought to them, then demand millions of dollars in diamonds, set up a decoy escape van while escaping via the tunnels beneath the plant which they know about, but the FBI and local law enforcement have no clue about and then drive out into the the middle of nowhere to the chopper they have waiting for them. Thanks goodness these Wincott movies are relatively unknown – I’d hate to think what would happen if some bad dude was made aware of this plan and tried to use it in real life!

Martial arts action movie synchronicity dictates that not only will Wincott’s old boss be the FBI guy in charge of failing to get anything done at the chemical plant, but that the boss of the chemical plant is his dad! And in an even more unbelievable stroke of unluckiness for the McNeil family, after the mercs’ original helicopter pilot meets an untimely demise, papa McNeil is tapped to fly the copter because somehow the bad guys know he can fly!

The occasional and needless use of slow motion during certain sequences along with the off-putting montage/slideshow of guys handling weapons that serves as the opening credits are about the only thing you will remember from the movie as soon as Jeff has saved the day and is announcing cyborg-like that he, his dad, and some woman they saved all could use a vacation. Sorry Jeff! No rest for the wooden because it’s off to make your next release of 1994, The Killing Machine!

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