Fire on the Amazon is a cheapozoid Roger Corman flick
about the disappearing rainforest. The entire 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
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 repellant.
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 rainforest 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 nature
spirits 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 rainforest is lost each
You want to argue that the director couldn't do much
with such a poor script? OK, 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. Even at 4% 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.
And 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!
Given the solid box office of The Specialist, Hollywood gave him
another assignment. The result? The cinematic marvel that is Anaconda, a
CGI snake film starring J-Lo and Ice Cube.
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.