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Fire Down Below (1997)

Directed by felix enriquez alcala

Porcine Steven Seagal may actually win the "most unintentionally funny martial artist" contest he's having with the muscle-head from Brussels, Jean-Claude Van Damme. Clad in designer black, pony-tailed and oily, Seagal goes to the Appalachians as an undercover, EPA, ball kicking, super agent to uncover toxic dumping (I swear, I'm not making any of this crap up).

Armed with only a test tube and an eyedropper that turns water blue, he walks around threatening sodomy to any yokel who gets in his way. All the bumpkins are either paid off or intimidated by toxic waste-dumping fat cat, Kris Kristofferson. This is actually an inspired bit of casting. Kristofferson is even more wooden and monotone than Seagal! Smirky Seagal's "cover" is to drive around in a pristine, vintage pickup truck fixing the local churchgoers porches. With his thousand dollar outfits and Buddhist prayer beads, this dude could hardly stick out any more. But hey, the outfit is Seagal's trademark just like his snapping opponent's arms in half and/or threatening them repeatedly with butt-sex.

Fire Down Below

The story and shooting style is low-grade "Barnaby Jones" with a bit of the old ultra-violence thrown in for good measure. It's hard to explain but Seagal's films are just plain fascinating. Several times I grabbed the remote to play back a particularly amusing moment. It's not merely bad. It's bad in a huge, outstanding way! This new cinema classic gets "HO's" highest recommendation! Buy it letter box and place it right next to Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" (German – 1926) or Charlie Chaplin's masterpiece "City Lights" (1931) to feel like you've achieved a new level of wrong. -- Rating $9.50

Tom Graney -- copyright 1997 Hollywood Outsider

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