Firewalker (film)

Firewalker is a 1986 American action-adventure-comedy film starring Chuck Norris, Louis Gossett, Jr., Will Sampson and Melody Anderson. It was directed by J. Lee Thompson and written by Norman Aladjem, Robert Gosnell and Jeffrey M. Rosenbaum. This was the first comedic role for Norris, giving him a chance to poke fun at his action persona.[2]

Theatrical release poster
Directed byJ. Lee Thompson
Produced byMenahem Golan
Yoram Globus
Written byRobert Gosnell
Based onstory by Robert Gosnell &
Jeffrey M. Rosenbaum &
Norman Aladjem
Music byGary Chang
CinematographyÁlex Phillips Jr.
Edited byRichard Marks
Carlos Puente
Charles Simmons
Distributed byThe Cannon Group
Release date
  • November 21, 1986 (1986-11-21) (U.S.)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$11,834,302[1]


Norris and Gossett play Max Donigan and Leo Porter, two soldiers of fortune, whose adventures rarely result in any notable gain. They are befriended by an inscrutable woman of mystery Patricia (Anderson). Patricia's map leads them on a quest for treasure in Central America. The name of the movie comes from the powerful guardian of the treasure.

This movie is famous for a fight scene in which Norris single-handedly defeats almost every male customer in a Mexican bar and destroys the bar in the process. Another aspect of Norris' character is his inability to properly use a firearm; in one scene, he kills a native by luck after misfiring, the result was the bullet bouncing off the walls before hitting its target.

Cast and crew


The film was Norris' first comedy, even though it was still an action film. It was described as "two guys, a girl and a Jeep on the road to a fortune in lost Aztec treasure."[3]

"It's a detour," said Norris. "Max Donegan is really the lighter side of Chuck Norris."[4] He added, "It's just an open, friendly, warm film with a lot of humor. It has the adventure of a Romancing the Stone and Raiders of the Lost Ark, the humor of the movie Crocodile Dundee -- where the situations cause the humor -- and the companionship between the two guys like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

Norris says that Cannon's chairman, Menahem Golan, showed "a little skepticism" when Norris first took the film to him to develop. "It's not the type of film I'm known for doing," said Norris. But Norris had a seven year deal with Cannon and was their leading box office star along with Charles Bronson. "Whether I do more lighter-type films beyond this one will be determined by how Firewalker does," said Norris. "The audience tells you what you'll be doing or not doing. Like Stallone - - he'll never do Rhinestone again."[5]

Norris knew he was taking a risk. He said, "When I got crucified in my first film, Good Guys Wear Black, I went to Steve McQueen. He said the bottom line is if you get the best reviews in the world and the movie bombs, you're not going to get work. But if it's a huge success, whether the criticism is good or bad, you'll work. The key thing is -- does the public accept you?"[5]

Filming took place in Mexico in June 1986.[6]

"I learned to speak Spanish and had a splendid time," said Anderson. "Chuck was incredible to work with, such a nice man... J. Lee was a character. Some days the heat got to him worse than others. He would get tired and cranky, but we got along great. At the time, I had no idea the director in The Exorcist was based on him. And even though it was a Cannon film, I got all my money!” [7]



Firewalker received overwhelmingly negative reviews.[2]

On At the Movies, both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert gave the film "thumbs down".[8] Siskel said Firewalker was "one of the most derivative films in years, imitating elements of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Romancing the Stone". He went on saying he believed "the movie was probably signed as a deal one month after the grosses started coming in for Romancing, and that was where the creativity stopped". Ebert said that he "would have tried to make a movie that didn't look like all those other adventure movies but cheap, watered-down, pale and uninteresting". In his print review, Ebert gave Firewalker 1 star out of 4:

...the film is a free-form anthology of familiar images from the works of Steven Spielberg, subjected to a new process that we could call discolorization...[the film] lacked the style, witty dialogue and magic of the current adventure pictures, as it borrowed its closing images from the Indiana Jones movies, but its press notes optimistically claim the movie is "in the tradition" of Romancing the Stone. In literature, it's called plagiarism. In the movies, it's homage.[9]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times called the film "a bargain-basement imitation of films on the order of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Romancing the Stone".[10] Canby also noted Norris's lack of comedic timing as he "stomped on the film's facetious dialogue". TV Guide published a largely negative review, criticizing Norris's "usual wooden" performance, the "appallingly bad" production values and the "flat, uninteresting" writing. The publication also noted Firewalker heavily "borrowing" elements from other successful adventure films, calling it "a cross between Raiders of the Lost Ark and a buddy picture".[11]

In a review written by Rita Kempley of The Washington Post, Norris was described as pleasant galoot that lacked Arnold Schwarzenegger's (a more popular and successful action star) sense of self parody and comic timing. Kempley felt "the fight scenes were fine, but they only emphasize the plodding pace and the moldy plot; a blend of Poltergeist II, Temple of Doom and Romancing the Stone".[12]

The film holds an 8% "Rotten" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes from 12 reviews.[13]

Box Office

The film was one of Cannon's strongest performing movies at the box office in 1986. However it was a relative disappointment compared to other Norris films, earning a little over $10 million.[14] It was ultimately considered a flop.[15] Cannon went into financial receivership soon afterwards.[16][17]


Firewalker was released on DVD by MGM Home Video March 22, 2005.

See also


  1. Firewalker at Box Office Mojo
  2. Thomas, Kevin (1986-11-24). "'Firewalker' Is Handsome Hokum". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
  3. Strickler, J., & Writer, S. (1986, Sep 26). Real `Killing fields' star wants to tell of cambodian holocaust. Minneapolis Star and Tribune Retrieved from
  4. Yakir, D. (1986, Dec 02). Movie comedy can be tough, he-man chuck norris learns. Chicago Sun - Times Retrieved from
  5. Honeycutt, K. (8 December 1986). "CHUCK NORRIS WALKS A DIFFERENT LINE IN NEW FILM". Chicago Tribune.
  6. HIGH HOPES. (1986, Jun 01). Los Angeles Times (Pre-1997 Fulltext) Retrieved from
  7. Jackiewicz, Pat (November 2007). "The Cult Dale Arden". Starlog. p. 23.
  8. Siskel & Ebert review Firewalker on At the Movies at YouTube. Retrieved on 2010-11-07 from
  9. "Firewalker: Movie Reviews by Roger Ebert". Chicago Sun-Times. November 21, 1986. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  10. Canby, Vincent (November 21, 1986). "Firewalker Movie Review". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  11. "Firewalker: Review". TV Guide. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  12. "Firewalker Movie Review". The Washington Post. 1986-11-21. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  13. "Firewalker Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  14. By, M. C. (1986, Dec 11). Cannon group may get an extension of monday's deadline for debt payment. Wall Street Journal Retrieved from
  15. Thompson, A. (1987). The 12th annual grosses gloss. Film Comment, 23(2), 62-64,66-69. Retrieved from
  16. PAULINE YOSHIHASHI, Special to the New,York Times. (1986, Dec 15). CANNON FACES DEBT DEADLINE. New York Times Retrieved from
  17. Ryan, D. (1987, Jan 11). A TALE OF TWO STUDIOS WITH CONTRASTING FORTUNES. Philadelphia Inquirer Retrieved from
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