Directed by J. Lee Thompson.
Starring Chuck Norris, Louis Gossett Jr., Melody Anderson, Sonny Landham, Will Sampson, John Rhys-Davies, Ian Abercrombie.
A pair of hapless adventurers take on a job to find priceless Aztec gold but are pursued by a vengeful spirit who will stop at nothing to protect it.
Back in the mid-1980s there was a brief moment when ripping off Indiana Jones movies was a thing and, as was the norm, it was the legendary Cannon Films who were the masterminds behind many of those low-budget gems. Whilst the mainstream responded to Harrison Ford’s archaeological adventures with the likes of the slick Michael Douglas-led romp Romancing the Stone, Cannon gave us the lacklustre King Solomon’s Mines and its sequel Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (both of which featured a young Sharon Stone alongside Richard Chamberlain in the lead role) but in 1986 they also knocked out Firewalker, a relatively obscure entry in the catalogue of action star Chuck Norris (The Delta Force/Missing in Action).
Norris plays Max Donigan, a rough-n’-ready adventurer who, alongside his partner Leo Porter (Louis Gossett Jr. – Jaws 3-D/Iron Eagle) is approached by Patricia Goodwin (Melody Anderson – Flash Gordon) to journey to Central America to recover missing Aztec gold. But the treasure is being protected by El Coyote (Sonny Landham – Predator/Action Jackson), an angry spirit who will stop at nothing to prevent the trio from getting their hands on the bounty.
A basic plot description for a very basic film, as Firewalker really doesn’t have any meat to it whatsoever, as if Cannon head honchos Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus saw Raiders of the Lost Ark and said “That’s what we want”, which is basically how Cannon came up with most of their movies but Raiders of the Lost Ark had money, time and talent behind it; Firewalker had a fraction of those things and it shows.
Ostensibly a comedy vehicle for Chuck Norris, who up until that point had been known for fighting Bruce Lee at the Colosseum in Way of the Dragon and for post-Vietnam war action movies, Firewalker counts on its two main leads to carry it, and Norris and Louis Gossett Jr. do have a nice rapport, bouncing lines off each other like a good buddy movie should, but it is Gossett Jr. who is the stronger actor of the two, sounding more natural and delivering every word with a glint in his eye and an eye-rolling facial expression. Norris, however, is a little more stilted, clearly having fun and appearing a little more relaxed than usual but only really required to cue or respond to Gossett Jr. and let loose with a few roundhouse kicks every now and then, which he does very respectably.
But the main problem with Firewalker is that not a lot actually happens, as Norris, Gossett Jr. and Melody Anderson – who is probably the best actor in it – wander from bar to bar, which Norris normally manages to take apart single-handedly, trying to get information or they hook up with odd characters such as Corky (John Rhys-Davies – Raiders of the Lost Ark/King Solomon’s Mines) and acquire something to help them on their way. And when they finally get to the temple and confront El Coyote the threat is fairly minimal and over with pretty quickly, with Sonny Landham not getting much to do apart from glare and swish his glorious red cape about. Yes, the budgets are low and the sets very cheap looking but a little more in the script could have made a difference in making it a bit more interesting.
Firewalker is a fun film in the same way that a Scooby-Doo cartoon is fun despite there being no real story or any real sense of danger. If you’re a Chuck Norris fan then it’s probably notable for being his first properly comedic role and the Blu-ray print is nice and clean but it’s only really worth a look if you are a Norris die-hard because, despite it being easy watching, there are bigger and better adventure movies to fill up those lazy Sunday afternoons with that warrant more of your time and attention.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★