Firehead (1991) — No heads were set on fire for the making of this movie

“I’m going to find a free country.”

Justin’s rating: If your favorite part of the original Superman movies was when Clark broke out his laser vision, then boy are you in for a treat.

Justin’s review: I know what all of you are thinking right now. You’re pondering that deep mystery where your mind refuses to rest until you can figure out whether Grumpy Old Men’s Jack Lemmon ever had a child, and if that child also grew up to be an amazing actor. Let me put your mind at rest: Jack had a son named Chris, and Chris became… well, “cinema-adjascent” is as far as I’m willing to go here. He’s less of an actor and more of a jittery assortment of randomly firing neurons who one day was offered a lead role in a 1991 scifi spy thriller called Firehead.

Considering that this is a movie about a rogue Russian agent with laser-blasting vision and also stars Martin Landau and Christopher Plummer, you’d think that Little Lemmon would’ve had a good chance at something he could show proudly to his family at Thanksgiving. Rumor is that he tried once, but everyone turned it to the Rose Bowl by minute 12 and sent Chris back to the kitchen for more pizza rolls.

The problem here lies in the fact that this is a movie about — let me say this again — a rogue Russian agent with laser-blasting vision, and it decided to emphasize a comedy sidekick who is having a two-hour-long anxiety attack. Lemmon plays Hart, an NIH scientist who just so happens to be besties with Brett Porter, a mutant Russian who decided to defect after being asked to blow up civilians. Porter then shows up in the US and starts blowing up stuff for no discernable reason.

So the government asks Hart — a man with zero field experience and a really distracting Yankees ballcap — to make contact with Brett. But instead of bringing the Russian in, Hart ends up teaming up with Brett when he finds out that the mutant is trying to bring down the sinister Upper Order (led by Plummer, chewing every scene with relish). They’re sort of, but not really, assisted by Myla the assassin-who-never-assassinates and a whole lot of incompetence on behalf of the bad guys. Of far more help is a little Star Trek-obsessed nine-year-old girl that Hart somehow knows who, at one point, steals a car and casually drives it across town in the dark to give to the good guys.

While the audience keeps hoping that Firehead here will start blasting stuff (which he does, once in a great while), we’ve got to endure the trials and tribulations of Chris Lemmon struggling to tread water in this script and often finding himself at the bottom of the lake looking up in bewilderment. Other points of amusement involve all of the ways that the movie clearly lacks the budget to show high-tech facilities and even the White House, substituting much more mundane locales. I sincerely believe that the entirety of this film was shot on location at an abandoned business park, a suburban house, a local Checkers restaurant, and a rock quarry.

Firehead also tangles itself up in a web of intrigue and conspiracies that ends up being far more complicated than it needs to be. By the end, it really boils down to “shadowy cabal tries to blow up the U.S. President while he takes a tour of a very dull research facility and release an ‘experimental virus’ for reasons probably relating to WORLD DOMINATION.”

While I don’t advise nonstop gorging on bad acting, the FDA said that it’s just fine in moderation, and I concur. As long as you watch an Oscar-nominated film after Firehead, your brain should be just fine. But, say, Firehead followed by two Pauly Shore movies? That combination will liquify your brain or make you a Mutant Reviewer.

Didja notice?

  • A pretty cool opening theme
  • 1988 in Estonia was the place to be!
  • Russian people liked to protest with English signs for some reason
  • The Department of Defense operates from a sad office park
  • Yeah just give a scientist an automatic weapon with no training and a “eh, you’ll figure it out when the time is right”
  • Every secret order needs to meet in a shadowy room and drink shots
  • People firing automatic weapons and rocket launchers five feet from each other don’t usually hit anyone
  • That little girl bellows all of her lines
  • Nothing like a groovy Martin Landau cameo
  • Someone working on this movie really liked the Yankees
  • Sneaking outfits require a whole lot of black, even if it’s in a brightly lit office space
  • Is it possible for a movie to have TOO much flirty scientific talk?
  • Discover Card reference?
  • Yeah, Myla is an assassin. Sure.
  • Snakes for breakfast!
  • Well that’s the worst Oval Office set I’ve seen in some time
  • From snake breakfasts to Checkers for lunch. This movie is making me hungry.
  • Cops just lunge out of cars and start shooting guys eating a lunch
  • Nothing like calling up a little girl and asking her to steal a car to drive to two known fugitives!
  • You should always look for huge spotlights before you go into a suspicious house
  • Laser vision can also create a rectangular shield somehow
  • And laser vision can teleport you

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