Director: Richard Pepin
Writer: Michael January
Cast: Chad McQueen, Gary Daniels, Art Camacho, Jim "Warrior" Hellwig, Gerald Okamura
There is a hierarchy in the world of cinematic martial artists -- indicative of budget more than quality. At the top of the list, you've got your JCVDs and your Seagals and Norrises. Below that, there's the Lamases and Wilsons and Rothrocks. The list goes down, all the way down, to someone like Ron Marchini, who is the bologna sandwich of the kickfighting world. Somewhere in the second or third tier, always threatening to storm his way to the top, is Mr. Gary Daniels. When given the right material, Daniels really shines and he is clearly an accomplished martial artist. Problem is, he is often put in films with less capable performers. Enter Chad McQueen and Firepower.
Daniels and McQueen play cops Nick Sledge and Darren Braniff, respectively. This is a PM Entertainment film, and one of the better ones at that, so it opens with a car chase and things blow up. McQueen and Daniels bring in their man, played by Jim Hellwig (wrestler The Ultimate Warrior) but it doesn't take The Ultimate Warrior's criminal buddies long to break him out of jail because, again, this is PM Entertainment and we need to throw some punches and blow stuff up.
This leads us, as all things do eventually, to a martial arts death cage tournament. It is here that we learn that The Ultimate Warrior goes by the moniker The Swordsman. (All the contestants in the tournament have names like that. For instance, the great Art Camacho plays The Viper) The biggest problem with this movie, as I said before, is that Gary Daniels plays second fiddle to the far inferior Chad McQueen. However, when Daniels or Camacho or Ultimate Warrior are on screen, this film is pretty much as good as it gets for DTV action fare.
Many action films have actors that should not speak. The Ultimate Warrior is one of those actors. Fortunately, I don't believe he has a single line throughout the entire film. He grunts and growls and looks menacing but, wisely, does not speak. Gary Daniels has all the brilliantly cheesy lines that you hope he will. Chad McQueen is what I'd imagine would happen if Tom Sizemore and Garth Brooks had a baby. We've got kicks and punches, we've got helicopters and car crashes, we've got lasers. And really, do we need anything else?
Firepower is surprising in that it is probably exactly as good as you expect it to be if you know your DTV action cinema. There would only be a handful more Gary Daniels films better than this and many, many worse ones. The same can be said for PM Entertainment. They were not often able to deliver on their promises but when they did, it's about as good as this genre gets. Solid fighting, solid action, solid villain, solid Gary Daniels.
-- Review by Craig McNeely
Netflix, Amazon, YouTube.
5 / 7