Starring Chuck Norris, Louis Gossett Jr, Melody Anderson, Will Sampson, Sonny Landham, John Rhys-Davies. Directed by J. Lee Thompson. (1986, 104 min). Olive Films
Chuck Norris...what a charmed life…
Here’s an action star who’s been kicking around Hollywood for over four decades without ever learning how to act (even Jean Claude Van Damme managed to get better over time). Of the 40+ movies he’s starred in, only Code of Silence was any good (though some could mention Lone Wolf McQuade without losing much dignity). The rest of his resume consists mostly of budget-conscious knock-offs of bigger and better films. This was especially true in the 80s, when he seemed to pump-out cinematic punch-fests every couple of months, nearly all of them released by Cannon Films.
Yet even decades after his heyday, there’s something nostalgically endearing about a man whose only discernible talent is administering roundhouse kicks to the head. Aided immeasurably by internet memes, we still love Chuck Norris, mostly because he’s incapable of being anyone else, even after the few times he tried to break free of his image as an ass-kicker…
…such as 1986’s Firewalker, Cannon’s answer to Raiders of the Lost Ark and Romancing the Stone, as well as an opportunity for Norris to show his comedic side. Of course, anyone familiar with Chuck’s career already knows he doesn’t have a comedic side, so his typically-wooden delivery pushes the already-lame story, dialogue and cut-rate production values into camp territory.
From the lackluster attempts at buddy-comedy to the supremely-cheesy synthesizer film score, this film reeks of the decade from which it sprang. Sidekick Lou Gossett shows up to prove Cuba Gooding Jr wasn’t the first Oscar winner to throw his career away by accepting every job offered to him (though he does give the best performance in the film). As for love-interest Melody Anderson…well, she’s as predictably cute & perky as she was in 1980’s Flash Gordon.
Obviously, time has been especially cruel to the likes of Firewalker, a film which was pretty terrible to begin with. It’s arguably one of Chuck Norris’ worst movies because it required him to display skills which were well-beyond his abilities. Still, I suppose there are some folks out there who carry a nostalgic torch for this film. For them, Firewalker might be an amusing trip down memory lane. For everyone else, this movie is a jaw-droppingly bad rip-off of better films released in the same decade.