Fire on the Amazon (1993) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
Fire on the Amazon is a cheapozoid Roger Corman flick about the disappearing Brazilian rain forest. The film is only 75 minutes long, and about half of it is a complete digression from the main story!
A famous indigenous environmentalist is killed. Although it is obvious that the money interests wanted him out of the way, the murder is performed with an arrow to feign an Indian attack, and the local police somehow arrest a taciturn Indian who "hangs himself" in his cell after signing a full confession. When his fellow tribesmen come for his body, a local North American environmentalist (Sandra Bullock) and a magazine reporter from the States (Craig Sheffer) try to talk to them, but they are unresponsive. On the spur of the moment, the Americans follow the Indians up the river to their reservation.
Pause. Let's think about that. Sheffer and Bullock see the Indians paddling upstream, so they just decide to commandeer a canoe and follow. They don't know the terrain, they don't know how far they will be traveling, they have no supplies - not even insect repellent, and they're in a stolen canoe paddling through the unfamiliar jungle, surrounded by crocs, snakes, the greedy bad guys, stone age tribesmen, and probably O.J. looking for the real killer. Not to mention the owner of the canoe.
Check. That all makes sense so far.
And that was the most logical part of the movie!
Soon thereafter, the reporter is shot by an unknown assailant and the canoe overturns, so the two adventurers just decide to saunter through the Amazon rain forest in a random direction, even though night is approaching, they are soaking wet, and one of them has a gunshot wound. Well, as luck would have it, they are captured by indigenous people. The sojourn in the native village is the thirty minute digression I spoke of earlier. During this time, the confusing plot simply grinds to a halt so that the Americans can exchange cultural enlightenment with the villagers and bodily fluids with one another. Fortunately for the helpless Americans, their kidnappers are not real natives but movie natives, and therefore live in harmony with the spirits of nature and possess the wisdom of their ancestors, including secret herbs that cure the wound, and more secret herbs that make Sandra Bullock want to make nice-nice for hours with the reporter (whom she had previously detested). These native guys have enough secret herbs and spices to open up their own fast food chain. Furthermore, they have more advanced forensic medicine than Quincy and CSI put together. They perform an autopsy on the guy who "hanged himself," and are able to conclude that he was dead before the hanging, killed by Colonel Mustard, in the conservatory, with a lead pipe.
The search is then on for Colonel Mustard, but the lovebirds are still under the spell of those secret herbs and spices, so they are constantly sneaking a quick feel on the dirt roads, and playing kissy-face in sleazy taverns filled with environmental terrorists and competitors in the Anthony Quinn look-alike contest. All of this romance is pursued with the same nonchalance you'd have with your best girly on the streets of London.
So what happens in the story?
This must take the award for the most abrupt deus ex machina ending ever. After their investigation pisses off everyone in South America, Bullock and Sheffer are pursued by about a zillion heavily armed bad guys, including all possible corrupt local authorities with Pancho Villa moustaches. The two lovebirds are finally trapped on a dock, lacking a boat, and facing a horde of approaching baddies. Their predicament includes machine guns in their faces, water at their backs, and no place left to run - with only a minute left in the film's running time ...
How can Pauline escape this Peril?
The reporter's buddy, a guy we saw for only a minute in the opening scene, suddenly arrives from the sky in a seaplane to rescue our lovebirds at the last second!
Unfortunately, Bullock had been severely wounded during their escape and dies from her wounds, but not before making a tearful deathbed environmental speech on the plane, after which some informative word slides tell us how much of the rain forest is lost each year.
You want to argue that the director couldn't do much with such a poor script? OK, I'll concede that the concept was poor. I'll give you that, but it was genius compared to the execution. The production values are abysmal. The photographic quality is about equal to your dad's home movies, and the sound track is both inappropriate and cheesy. In other words, director Luis Llosa defied the odds by taking a bad script and making it worse!
Llosa's Hollywood career was not over, however, not by a long shot. Defying all logic, some producers saw the incoherent, amateurish mess that was Fire on the Amazon and were inspired to bankroll Llosa with $45 million to helm a film with Sharon Stone, James Woods, and Sly Stallone! To be honest, the results of that decision didn't work out that poorly for the investors. Stone and Stallone were then major stars, and The Specialist amassed nearly $60 million at the domestic box office, and exceeded $100 million worldwide!
Despite the above average box office results, the quality of The Specialist was predictably bad. It scored a cellar-dwelling 4% at Rotten Tomatoes, making it one of the worst reviewed films of 1994, with a lower RT valuation than such monumental failures as The Flintstones and Major League Two. Here is our review. Astoundingly, it was not Sharon Stone's worst-reviewed film of that year! Her other picture, Intersection, stumbled across the Rotten Tomatoes finish line without receiving a single positive review. Neither of Sharon's classics was the worst film of that year. It's Pat, the Movie and Police Academy: Mission to Moscow are rated the 34th and 51st worst movies of all time by IMDb. Because of the stiff competition, Llosa failed to make the worst film of 1994, but The Specialist was close to the career nadir for everyone involved with it except, of course, for Llosa himself, since it would have been almost impossible for him to sink to a level anywhere near Fire on the Amazon.
But, God bless him, he tried!
IMDb ratings for Llosa's last three films:
Llosa is now producing TV programs in Peru. Do you think anyone there believes him when he saunters into the company cafeteria, takes a deep sip of his Inca Cola and begins to regale his available listeners with tales of having once directed a hundred million dollar movie starring Sharon Stone? They must think he is kidding.
And, in a very real way, he is.
Return to the Movie House home page