Ladder 49

Ladder 49

***

Reviewed by: Gator MacReady

Since 9/11 the media and public have had a tendency to patronise and honour fire fighters, at least in America. Across the pond, we piss them off by not giving them a 400 per cent wage rise and ignore them when they go on strike. But our American cousins need heroes. And what better hero than some guy who runs into a burning building when everyone else is running out.

Ladder 49 is where tubby Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix) works, and he loves his job. Even though some of his pals occasionally burn up like candles and get their faces melted off, he still craves it so bad that it causes many arguments with his wife (Jacinda Barrett). For once in my life, I would agree with the woman.

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His love for fire fighting is promptly extinguished one day when the big-bellied porker runs into a burning warehouse and falls through the creaky floor. None of his pals can get to him and fire boss Mike Kennedy (John Travolta) stresses out that his dear old pal may burn alive. Well, he wanted to be a fireman didn't he?

As tubby Jack lies in a mangled heap in a basement somewhere in the labyrinthine building, he treats us to flashbacks of his working life - how he met his wife, his first ever fire, the death of his pals, his scariest/most famous moments, etc. For all its intentions to be an honest display of the life of a typical fireman and not an ooh ahh effects show, like Backdraft, it does feel a bit mawkish and false. There's no real involvement, or epic feel, though there is enough emotion to make it worthwhile.

This is not the fault of the cast, who are all great (hey Wackeen, or whatever your name is, lose the beer belly would ya!), but with the limp material. I wanted to see charred bodies, blackened corpses, the real gritty detail, ya know? But it simply ain't here. Come on, man. This ain't Fireman Sam. And there ain't much story, either, rather than a bunch of events in some guy's short life, so it's bit anti-climatic, too.

If your being dragged to the cinema with your girlfriend and she's one of those walking clich├ęs, who loves to cry and stuff, then there will be enough emotion and drama to satisfy both of you. I'd advise a crowd of guys to steer clear, however.

Nice effort, but, sorry, I'm a hardcore kinda guy and this don't satisfy my bloodthirsty needs.

Reviewed on: 21 Jan 2005
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In praise of the firefighter, post 9/11.
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Director: Jay Russell

Writer: Lewis Colick

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, John Travolta, Jacinda Barrett, Robert Patrick, Morris Chestnut, Balthazar Getty, Tim Guinee, Kevin Chapman, Jay Hernandez

Year: 2004

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US

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