By: Cam Sully
If you’re not told to be a cop, doctor or astronaut, chances are you’ve dreamed of being a firefighter! You’d got to admire people skilled enough to deal with the worst man-made and natural disasters everyday but it’s not always easy to find a good firefighting drama that merits some entertainment value so let’s round up 10 winners out of the many losers.
I went with something less trashy instead of Backdraft, Ablaze or Collateral Damage. But instead, no, forget it- let’s focus on the goofy premise that is football superstar Howie Long as a fire rescue dude stopping three escaped convicts from causing more forest fires. Stupidly awesome as hell and featuring much of the same Cliffhanger/Speed type tropes, it overall does merit a watch, let alone multiple rewatches. Not since Road House have we seen this much silly mayhem.
9. Fire with Fire
Yes, it’s unimpressive and easy to predict. Yes, it’s the start of Bruce Willis’ supporting easy paydays for Lionsgate and the Emmett/Furla production companies as we know it. Regardless, it still is a straightforward crime thriller that mixed in legal and witness protection elements with the usual boom-boom moments. Vincent D’Onofrio alone also makes the film far more memorable as the key antagonist and gang leader behind the devastating fires.
8. Out of the Inferno
A 3D disaster film helmed by the Pang Brothers that co-stars Lau-Ching Wan was one of the biggest Hong Kong blockbusters of 2013. Often ridiculed for putting style over substance, you could still argue that it has far better merit overall due to its competent handling of the big-screen worthy visuals and efficient pacing. And it is definitely a cinematic experience worth testing your HD TV and sound system on from time to time!
7. Ladder 49
Based on an actual story, this film is a slow burn (no pun intended) and allows a solid event unfolding cover. It doesn’t exactly break new ground but it still retains dramatic reward as it goes from point A to B and never messes around in that respect. Worth also seeing for fans of the cast and of course firefighting.
A ‘97 TV pilot that wasn’t picked up but can be appreciated by fans of Tom Fontana (Oz, Homicide, St. Elsewhere) as well as younger performers Edie Falco, Morris Chestnut and Dean Winters being lead in an ensemble by a not-so-invincible Richard Dean Anderson! Part-crime drama, part-thriller, it does a solid execution of showing a hostile workplace while focusing on other cat-and-mouse tension filled subplots without reminding one of inferior or greater firefighter films. And despite being a TV pilot, it does end on some closure making for an engaging diversion altogether.
5. Sudden Death
There are many camps who support or mock this film but at the end of the day it’s def a better film for Van Damme as well as a far more engaging Die Hard knock-off. It’s even better than Firestorm due to that uncanny crooked federal agent taking over a Pittsburgh hockey stadium with the Vice President and everyone else inside!
Another Hong Kong blockbuster starring Lau-Ching Wan also covers the perilous everyday lives of self-described cursed firefighters while having filmmaker Johnny To establish a consistent yet very needed slow-building mood. We open up with appropriate claustrophobic scenarios, ill-feeling staffmembers and employment HR reviewing. It’s all relatable no matter what country or job you’re in and is a beyond rewarding character study as a result.
Showing the complex personal lives of the three protagonists and the various mood swings, all while having a consistent tone and never even a reliance on the action itself as a selling point is only part of why it works so well. At other times, you wouldn’t be out if place to feel like you’re watching a documentary given the natural camera set-ups and suspenseful tracking shots leading up to the inevitable chaos.
3. As The Light Goes Out
Hong Kong cinema strikes again with this 2014 trophy. Much like Out of the Inferno, it shows as a testament to how to properly showcase an Action Drama while also easily marketing it to U.S. cinema audience. We Americans better stop worrying about star power and focus on telling legit hood stories like this! You have to live a tale of 3 firefighter buddies trying to stop a natural gas power planet from engulfing in flames on Christmas Eve after all!
2. Rescue Me
A darkly comedic yet tragically real show which is lead by comedic performer Denis Leary. Always uneasy to watch and yet always captivating all the same. Ranked as one of FX cable TV’s finest shows to date, it will always stand the test of time with its day-to-day focus on the various professionals, their vices and other messy habits.
1. Chicago Fire
Another captivating Dick Wolf TV production that shows the seemingly unstoppable nature of his company’s draw to unusually and hardly formulaic subject matter. Going a step further and avoiding being just sexy people doing perilous actions is definitely another draw as we have various lawsuits, paperwork detailing and a focus on other portions of the department as well as recapping what occurs in their downtime inbetween 9-1-1 incidents.
Later launching the spin-offs, Chicago P.D., Justice and Med, this franchise is hear to stay but it’s hardly another overhyped show that you’ll want to pass up, that’s for sure. That’s not something I can say about Station 19 now. This show is also now on IMDb TV to stream via mobile also so that too is recommended.
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