Fire Down Below (1997 film)
Fire Down Below is a 1997 American action film starring Steven Seagal and directed by Félix Enríquez Alcalá in his directorial debut. The film also includes cameos by country music performers Randy Travis, Mark Collie, Ed Bruce, Marty Stuart and Travis Tritt, and country-rocker and the Band member Levon Helm, as well as Kris Kristofferson in a supporting role. Steven Seagal plays Jack Taggart, an EPA agent who investigates a Kentucky mine and helps locals stand up for their rights. The film was released in the United States on September 5, 1997.
|Fire Down Below|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Félix Enríquez Alcalá|
|Story by||Jeb Stuart|
|Music by||Nick Glennie-Smith|
|Edited by||Robert A. Ferretti|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$16.2 million|
In the peaceful Appalachian hills of eastern Kentucky, toxins are being dumped into abandoned mines, causing environmental havoc, but the locals, mindful of their jobs and the power of the mine owners, can do nothing. EPA CID agent Jack Taggert is sent to investigate, after a fellow agent is found dead, probably not by accident. The EPA has received an anonymous letter from Jackson, Kentucky, and Taggert goes there undercover to continue his colleague's investigations.
It is discovered that Hanner Coal Company, owned by Orin Hanner Sr., is being paid to dump toxic waste into an abandoned coal mine shaft, so Jack is assigned to go to the small town of Jackson, where his cover is that of assistant and volunteer carpenter to a local church. He stays in a room in the church's basement, and begins his cover work by repairing the roof at a house where one of the children is sick because of the pollution. He attempts to question the family, but they do not have much to say. He has little better results elsewhere; even the man who tipped off the EPA is decidedly taciturn. While testing the water, Taggert wanders into a local marijuana field, and is accosted by the growers. After disarming them, he tells them that he has no interest in arresting them.
The men responsible for the other agent's death soon notice Taggert's presence. As a newcomer to the small local community, he is threatened by Hanner's son Orin, Jr. (Brad Hunt), the incompetent local tool of the company, the corrupt local Sheriff Lloyd Foley, and several thugs that work for them. The thugs in question start by leaving two rattlesnakes in his dwelling; Taggert responds by capturing the snakes alive and leaving them in the pickup that the thugs were driving, causing them to crash. Soon after, five of them attack him while he is buying supplies, and receive a severe beating as a result. Orin then orders one of his truck drivers to arrange an "accident" by running him off the road, but Taggert escapes alive while the driver is killed.
While these conflicts are occurring, Taggert strikes up a relationship with Sarah Kellogg, a young woman who lives in the town. She is regarded as an outcast because of her father's murder, a crime of which she was accused but not convicted. Eventually, she agrees to testify against Orin and his people, much to the anger of her brother Earl, who actually committed the crime, after their father found out about his sexual abuse against her. He sets the church on fire, in the process killing the preacher who was helping Taggert, and then attempts to collapse the mine with Taggert inside it. Taggert escapes, but several mercenaries are killed, including Earl.
With evidence and a witness, Taggert calls the FBI to take Sarah into protective custody. However, they are revealed to be corrupt, and a firefight ensues. Taggert kills one agent, then sends the second back to Orin with a message that he'll be coming for him next. However, when Orin is arrested and charged, he gets off with a slap on the wrist for the environmental violations. Taggert goes back into the town and fights his way past the last of Orin, Jr's thugs, then demands the truth from him. Orin agrees to turn state's evidence, implicating his father on racketeering, conspiracy, and murder charges. Taggert goes to a casino to arrest Orin, Sr. Upon hearing about the reception awaiting him in federal prison, Orin produces a gun and resists, but Taggert shoots him in the shoulder and he is taken into custody. Taggert then returns to Jackson, where he is reunited with Sarah.
- Steven Seagal as Jack Taggert, Federal Agent of the Bureau of Envinronment
- Marg Helgenberger as Sarah Kellogg
- Harry Dean Stanton as Cotton Harry
- Stephen Lang as Earl Kellogg
- Brad Hunt as Orin Hanner, Jr.
- Levon Helm as Reverend Bob Goodall
- Kris Kristofferson as Orin Hanner, Sr.
- Mark Collie as Hatch
- Alex Harvey as Sims
- Ed Bruce as Sheriff Lloyd Foley
- Amelia Neighbors as Edie Carr
- Richard Masur as Phil Pratt
- Randy Travis as Ken Adams
- Marty Stuart as himself
- Travis Tritt as himself
- Ernie Lively as Todd
- James Mathers as Marshall Adams
The film was shot on location in and around Kentucky; parts of the "truck chase scene" were shot at Natural Bridge State Resort Park. Some of the opening scenes were filmed at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. The cave scenes were filmed in the Great Saltpetre Cave.
Seagal liked the film in part because it was "kind of an environmental movie." He also enjoyed working with Helgenberger. "While I don’t think she’s a physical, spectacular, drop dead gorgeous woman, at the same time she’s a spectacular actress," said Seagal. "Her performance was wonderful."
On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 11% based on 27 reviews, with an average rating of 3.3/10. On Metacritic the film has a score of 40 out of 100, based on reviews from 13 critics. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B-" on an A+ to F scale.
The film was nominated for four Razzie Awards:
- Worst Picture – Julius R. Nasso (lost to The Postman)
- Worst Actor – Steven Seagal (lost to Kevin Costner for The Postman)
- Worst Screen Couple – Seagal and his guitar (lost to Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dennis Rodman for Double Team)
- Worst Original Song – "Fire Down Below" (lost to The Entire Song Score of The Postman)
- "Fire Down Below". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2015-05-17.
- Seymour, Gene (1997-09-08). "Steven Seagal Foils Toxic Villains in 'Fire'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-25.
- "Great Saltpetre Cave Articles and Documents". Rockcastle Karst Conservancy, Inc. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
- "INTERVIEW: STEVEN SEAGAL TALKS HIS LATEST FILM, FAVORITE ROLES, & MORE!". Jo Blo. 11 May 2015.
- "Fire Down Below (1997)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2015-05-17.
- "Fire Down Below". Metacritic.
- "Cinemascore". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
- Wilson, John (2007). "Eighteenth Annual Razzies (1997)". The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywoods Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 9780446510080.
- "The Stinkers 1997 Ballot". The Stinkers. Retrieved 4 September 2019.