Fires Within (1991) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

What in the world was MGM thinking with this one? This must have been from the period when Jimmy Smits' TV career was skyrocketing, and they were trying to tailor a theatrical vehicle for him. 

Here they gave him all the depth and grandeur of a TV movie of the week, except  without the toothpaste commercials.


Greta Scacchi revealed her breasts and buns in two subtle lovemaking scenes.
Jimmy and Greta Scacchi actually do fine in an underwritten, superficial treatment of a Cuban writer, a political refugee who comes back to the USA from a Cuban prison to find that his wife resents his "honorable" decision to go to prison. He could have just shut up, pretended to go along with Castro, and then snuck out with her and her daughter. But, no-o-o-o-o.

She still loves and admires him, but he's been missing for years, so she has taken on a new lover who seems like dad to her daughter. Jimmy's eventual appearance in the States greatly complicates the personal situation.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1 (which  looks pretty good), and also a fullscreen version (which is too dark)

  • no meaningful features

Scacchi has to balance off the two proud men that she loves, while Jimmy has to balance off his importance in the Cuban expat community in Miami against his need to get to know his family again.

It's about as good as it sounds.

And the decision to dump the American guy shouldn't have been that difficult for her - it was Vince d'Onofrio, after all, and you just know he's going to go on a killing spree sooner or later. 

Tuna's Thoughts

Fires Within (1991), which IMDB calls "Little Havana" is really a love triangle, with a backdrop of the Cuban community in Florida. Greta Scacchi and Jimmy Smits play a couple who were married in Cuba, and had a daughter. Scacchi is a school teacher who wants nothing more than to protect her family, while Smits is a highly principled writer who becomes an activist against the Castro regime. He is arrested and sentenced to 20 years. When they offer him release if he signs a loyalty oath and recants his anti-government stance, he prefers to spend the rest of his time in solitary and away from his wife and daughter. Scacchi and their daughter escape to Florida, and settle in Little Havana.

Cut to seven years later, and Smits has been released from prison and allowed to leave Cuba. While he was gone, Scacchi has taken a few jobs, and had an ongoing affair with the owner of the boat that rescued her during the escape. Now she and the daughter must choose between the two men. Smits is encouraged to become an activist in Little Havana, and is something of a local hero. Scacchi sees history repeating itself, so we have two conflicts set up:
  • Who will Scacchi end up with
  • Will Smits choose his cause or his family?

The film is beautifully photographed mainly in a very colorful Little Havana, and we get a feel for what it is like when your family members are political prisoners, or are still living under an oppressive dictatorship. The performances are adequate, but the story didn't have near the power and dramatic impact it could have. Scacchi shows breasts and buns in flashback sequences. IMDB readers say 5.8 of 10. I am not sure this Indie ever had a theatrical release, and there are no reviews of note on line. I found it rather lukewarm, and can give it no more than a C. The concept had merit, but the script was way under-written, giving the film no chance.

The Critics Vote

  • Maltin 2/4 

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.8 
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a D. (Tuna C-) Basically a TV movie. Not bad, but just not worth the time invested in it.

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