ABC Film Challenge – Action Movies – L – Ladder 49 (2004)

Director: Jay Russell

Writer: Lewis Colick (Screenplay)

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, John Travolta, Jacinda Barrett, Robert Patrick, Morris Chestnut, Billy Burke


Plot: A firefighter, injured and trapped in a burning building, has flashbacks of his life as he drifts in and out of consciousness. Meanwhile, fellow firefighters led by the Chief attempt to rescue him.


There may be spoilers the rest of the review


Verdict: Thought Provoking Action Thriller


Story: Ladder 49 starts as Jack Morrison (Phoenix) is performing a daring tower block fire rescue only for disaster to strike and Jack finds himself trapped inside the burning inferno. This causes Jack to have flack backs to his early firefighting days as a rookie in the 39th under Mike Kennedy (Travolta).

As Jack continues to fade between consciousness we learn about his personal life and how he met and married Linda (Barrett) as well as seeing just how his team became the unit through the good and bad events of being a firefighter, this will give him a chance to believe who could save him.


Thoughts on Ladder 49


Characters/PerformanceJack Morrison is the firefighter that gets trapped in the fire, we get to see his rise from rookie firefighter to one of the most respected in his team, get married and have children but through the events of the film we are left to wonder like himself whether he was right to stay in the force. Captain Mike Kennedy keeps his team united through the good times and the bad, he knows how to motivate them and how to let them celebrate, but he won’t leave a man behind. Linda is the wife of Jack that he meets on one of his first few days on the job, she is concerned after the first death in the squad. The rest of the unit are what you expect, the best friend, the wise one, the confrontational one you know the picture.

Performance wise, Joaquin Phoenix is great in the leading role showing he was ready to make the jump from supporting actor to leading man. Travolta shows that he can turn out good performances around the weaker ones people can slam him for. Jacinda Barrett is good but doesn’t get the full levels you would like to see from the supporting character. The cast all give us good performances throughout the film too.

StoryThe story is told as one man is looking back on his life wondering if he made the right decisions in his life when he becomes trapped during the latest fire he is fighting. This does show the stress firefighters would go through from either a good rescue or seeing a friend hurt or killed, dealing with personal life and the peril of going into a blaze with no true idea of what is waiting for them. I like how this is told because it shows how Jack got to where he is in his ranking within the unit.

Action/ThrillerThe action sequences are all different types of fires the crew must battle and they are all shot wonderfully to suck us into the story as we don’t know what will happen in each fire. This does help keep us on the edge of our seats at times but we know we don’t need to worry about Jack during the flack backs.

SettingsThe settings show us just how dangerous battling fires can be, how the men risk their lives and how they can be different on each occasion.

Special EffectsAll the effects are used to make the fires look as dangerous as they should be which is good to see throughout the film.

Final ThoughtsThis is a film that will make you respect the firefighters of the world even more because you get to see how much they are willing to risk to save people’s lives. It is shot very well with the only negative being knowing there is only one fire Jack is in any peril through.


Overall: One for all the action thriller fans out there.





Judgment Night (1993)

logoDirector: Stephen Hopkins

Writer: Lewis Colick (Screenplay) Lewis Colick, Jere Cunningham (Story)

Starring: Emilio Estevez, Cuba Gooding Jr, Denis Leary, Stephen Dorff, Jeremiy Piven, Peter Greene, Erik Schrody, Michael Wiseman


Plot: Four pals are on their way to a boxing match, but gets stuck in heavy traffic. To get to the boxing match in time they take the first exit they find to find another way to the venue. As they are driving around lost in gang-land they get stuck and witness a brutal murder. The killer wants no witnesses and tries to kill them too. The four pals get away the first time, but the killer is soon back on their tail again while they are trying to find help in the middle of nowhere.


Verdict: Wrong Turn Boys


Story: The old cat and mouse action gets another go here. This time we get the well-off group of friends who end up on the wrong side of the tracks being chased down by a ruthless criminal and his gang. The basic rules are followed and the relationship between both parties is very traditional. Don’t expect too much different to what you would have seen, but it does keep you wanting more. (7/10)


Actor Review


Emilio Estevez: Frank the married with a kid mature one of the group, who just wants a night out with his friends. He tries to keep everything together through the situation they get stuck in. good performance in the unlikely leader role. (7/10)


Cuba Gooding Jr: Mike the muscle of the group who will always have the guys back whenever they get into trouble. Good cocky performance from Cuba. (7/10)


Denis Leary: Fallon the criminal who is trying to clean up any loose ends by tracking down the four friends with his gang, he is smart, ruthless and will not be pushed around. Good performance from Denis in a villainous role that takes no excuses. (8/10)


Stephen Dorff: John the younger brother of Frank who was a last minute replacement on the night out who has a temper that can lead to unnecessary confrontation. Good supporting role that doesn’t get too involved. (6/10)


Jeremy Piven: Ray the smart talker of the group who could literally sale ice to an Eskimo. He arranges the transport for the night as well as suggests taking the back road leading to the trouble. Good supporting performance getting the annoying friend tag. (7/10)


Director Review: Stephen Hopkins – Good direction to create a basic action cat and mouse chase film. (7/10)


Action: Good action mostly chasing and random gun firing though. (7/10)

Thriller: Good at keeping your attention. (7/10)

Settings: The setting makes everything more interesting as the guys from the right side of track end up on the wrong. (9/10)

Suggestion: This could be tried by the thriller fans, it isn’t anything special but could keep you entertained. (Try)


Best Part: The roof negotiations scene.

Worst Part: The good guys are plain characters.

Believability: No (0/10)

Chances of Tears: No (0/10)

Chances of Sequel: No

Post Credits Scene: No


Oscar Chances: No

Box Office: $12.5 Million

Runtime: 1 Hour 50 Minutes

Tagline: They had a choice, kill or be killed.


Overall: Wrong Turn Without the Creatures

Rating 66

Domestic Disturbance (2002)

logoDirector: Harold Becker

Writer: Lewis Colick (Screenplay) Lewis Colick, William S Comanor, Gary Drucker (Story)

Starring: John Travolta, Matt O’Leary, Teri Polo, Vince Vaughn, Steve Buscemi


Plot: A divorced father Frank Morrison (Travolta) discovers that his ex-wife Susan (Polo) new husband Rick Barnes (Vaughn) is not who he claims to be. To protect his son Danny (O’Leary) Frank must uncover the truth before it is too late.


Verdict: Thriller close to home

Story: On paper this sounds like another version of ‘The Stepfather’ and in a way it is. Instead of just being the child’s struggle against the evil stepfather we also see the father’s struggle to prove who he really is. The build-up also includes the idea the child is a well-known liar when things don’t go his way. All this comes together to make a good story but one that really will be on that doesn’t stick in the memory. (7/10)


Actor Review: John Travolta – Frank Danny’s father who wants to just stand back at let his ex-wife move on but after Danny witness something he can’t rest until he knows the truth. Solid performance from Travolta which is the best of the lot. (8/10)


Actor Review: Vince Vaughn – Rick the new stepfather with a secret he is trying to keep safe but once it gets exposed he tries everything in his power to keep it quiet. Vince had a tendency to play villainous roles before he became the wise cracking funny man he is now and this shows he can pull it off. (8/10)


Actor Review: Matt O’Leary – Danny the young boy who is the centre of all the trouble in the film, lies to stop something happening he doesn’t like and never really dealt with his parents’ divorce. Good performance from the young star showing he can stand toe to toe with bigger name actors. (8/10)


Actor Review: Teri Polo – Susan Danny’s mother who remarries but fails to see through him until it is too late. Good performance as the character would have to fall for all of Rick’s charm. (7/10)


Director Review: Harold Becker – Good direction but the final fight is a bit too dark to be effective. (7/10)


Crime: Watching how reluctant the cops are to help the situation shows how poor they are to the crime story. (6/10)

Thriller: It feels very edge of seat from the moment we learn about Rick’s past but never pulls in all it could. (8/10)

Believability: It would be scary as it could be real but not as far as it is. (3/10)

Chances of Tears: No (0/10)

Settings: The settings used as good but don’t add enough to the story. (8/10)

Suggestion: it is a short thriller so it could be enjoyed by most as it wouldn’t take up much of your time. It is easy enough to watch too. (Try It)


Best Part: The end is good.

Worst Part: The cops.

Trivia: Vince Vaughn, Steve Buscemi were involved in a bar brawl during the filming.

Oscar Chances: No

Chances of Sequel: No

Similar Too: The Stepfather


Overall: Thriller that will hit hard at home

Rating 72

Harold Becker