Bullet Points: Firepower (1993)
When your father is screen legend Steve McQueen, you are in a really tough spot as an actor. Steve McQueen epitomized everything an action hero should be and created the template of what was expected from future action movie heroes. Steve McQueen had charisma, machismo and a confidence that jumped off the screen. As Chad McQueen began his own action movie career, the world would soon find out that the traits that Steve McQueen boasted weren’t necessarily passed on to his offspring.
Chad McQueen’s first starring role came in 1990’s Martial Law, where Chad played an undercover cop who teamed up with a martial arts expert played by Cynthia Rothrock. Less than a year later when Martial Law II was released, Chad found himself replaced by Jeff Wincott. Things weren’t exactly off to a great start for Chad McQueen Action Star. But this setback did not completely derail the acting career of Chad McQueen who continued to act up until 2001.
In this edition of Bullet Points, I will take a look at Chad McQueen in 1993’s Firepower…
- Future Shock: The 2007 depicted in the movie Firepower proved to be much different than the actual 2007. Big cities across the country that have been overrun by crime are gerrymandered by the government to create “personal freedom zones” within these major metropolises. Criminal activity is permissible in these “personal freedom zones” in an effort to contain the crime to these areas and not allow it to spread. Los Angeles’ “personal freedom zone” earns the nickname of the Hell Zone. In the 2007 of Firepower, a cure for AIDS has also been discovered but the LAPD learns that a bogus (and deadly) version of the vaccine is being manufactured in the Hell Zone.
- Volunteers: Two of the LAPD’s finest volunteer to infiltrate the Hell Zone so they can shut down the production of the black market AIDS vaccine. These two cops are family man Darren Braniff (Chad McQueen) and his ladies man partner Nick Sledge (Gary Daniels). When Braniff and Sledge arrive in the Hell Zone, they find that the hottest spot in the Zone is a theater that hosts underground fights inside a ring surrounded by an electrified cage known as the Death Ring (not to be confused with the movie Death Ring that starred Chad McQueen and fellow second generation action star Mike Norris). It does not take long before Braniff and Sledge go from Death Ring spectators to Death Ring competitors. Once they are on the inside, Braniff tries to cozy up with one of the Death Ring employees, Lisa (wait a minute, wasn’t he supposed to be the family man with a wife and a son?!?!) and finds out that the man who runs the fights, Mr. Drexal (Joseph Ruskin of Cyber Tracker fame) is also the man who is behind the manufacturing of the black market AIDS vaccine.
- Major Players: Two of the Death Ring’s major players are established as Braniff and Sledge get deeper and deeper into the Death Ring world… There is the reigning champion The Swordsman (played by Jim Hellwig AKA WWE Hall of Famer The Ultimate Warrior in his one and only movie role). The Swordsman is the only undefeated competitor in Death Ring history. When you step into the cage with The Swordsman, you don’t make it out alive. The Swordsman doesn’t just dominate the Death Ring, he is also the leader of the violent street gang that runs rough shod in the Hell Zone known as The Hell Riders… The other is an up and coming fighter known as Viper (played by Art Camacho). I had seen Art Camacho before in minor roles, like the valet in Fists of Iron, but Firepower was easily Camacho’s biggest acting role. After watching Camacho’s acting work, I was genuinely surprised he did not have the opportunity to star in an action movie of his own or at the very least get more substantial supporting player roles like he did in Firepower. Art Camacho also served as the fight choreographer for the movie and I was not at all surprised by the high quality fights that were featured in Firepower thanks in large part to Camacho’s choreography.
I have long wondered who pulled the plug on Chad McQueen’s acting career. Hollywood or Chad himself? Revisiting Firepower may not have given me the answer to that question, but it did shed some light on why Chad McQueen did not even come close to the level that his famous father did.
Chad McQueen was arguably the superior actor in Firepower, but even with that going for him, Chad McQueen did not feel like a star. Gary Daniels, Art Camacho and even Hollywood rookie The Warrior managed to outshine McQueen due to their screen presence, charisma and the physical skills they brought to the table. The married Darren Braniff flirting with Lisa did not make Chad McQueen’s character the most noble either which hurt the character’s likability.
It was fortunate for the viewers that McQueen did not have to carry the movie himself and I believe it was by design that Chad was surrounded by other action stars to lean on, because it is not like he has some amazing fighting skills to make up for his lack of charisma and personality. The team up concept was a common thread in most (if not all) of Chad’s “starring” roles over the years and I honestly can not imagine getting through a Chad McQueen movie where he wasn’t teamed up with another action star.
The inclusion of Bonus Bullet Points is a common thread in most (if not all) of my reviews on this site…
- Familiar Face: Michael Gregory plays the Death Ring’s chief handler in Firepower. Gregory’s character is responsible for keeping things organized in the Death Ring locker room and passing on pertinent information to the fighters. Gregory was a favorite of Director Paul Verhoeven, playing Lieutenant Hedgecock in Robocop and the rebel lieutenant in Total Recall.
- If You Ever: …wanted to see The Ultimate Warrior battle legendary martial artist Gerald Okamura, then this is the movie for you.
- Insulting Quote: “You both look like a piece of fried shit!”
- Awful Ring Name: As a longtime fan of professional wrestling I have lived through some pretty awful gimmicks and monikers, but Darren Braniff’s ring name of The Alley Cat is among the worst I have ever heard.
- The Name Game: There was a 1979 film titled Firepower that was directed by Michael Winner and starred James Coburn, Sophia Loren and O.J. Simpson!
- If You Ever: …wanted to see The Ultimate Warrior decapitate Gary Daniels, then this is the movie for you.