Fire With Fire (1986)
Olive Films // PG-13 // $29.95 // July 31, 2012
Review by Tyler Foster | posted October 2, 2012
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Graphical Version
Brought together by chance, and immediately bound by love, Joe (Craig Sheffer) and Lisa (Virginia Madsen) are from different worlds: he's serving time at a youth prison camp, she's attending an upscale Catholic school. They first meet as he races through the woods as part of an exercise challenge, where she's taking photographs of herself, lying in a pond, in a recreation of a famous painting. From then on, both of them scheme and plan to see each other as much as possible, before staging a grand escape into the woods, with Joe's slimy warden (Jon Polito) and the police in hot pursuit.

Ah, the magic of Blu-Ray. What other reason would Fire With Fire, a decent teen romance, get any play in the 21st century? The story is timeless -- 2012's acclaimed Moonrise Kingdom comes to mind as a modern take on a similar story -- but this particular incarnation feels a tiny bit dated (if less than some movies of the same vintage). This disc is almost certainly just for the benefit of those who saw the movie when it was new and have fond memories of it, but it succeeds on the strength of the chemistry between its two leads and the general skill with which it was constructed.

Script-wise, Fire With Fire has a decent pedigree: Bill Phillips adapted Christine for John Carpenter, and Warren Skaaren would go on to write Beetlejuice and Batman for Tim Burton before passing away early. The story, which has Lisa devising a dance for the boys' camp and the girls' school, and an eventual dash for a cabin in the mountains, is nicely streamlined; supporting characters like Lisa and Joe's best friends feel nicely rounded without taking away too much screen time or focus from the main characters. Their schemes to see each other are not too wacky or complicated, and the film avoids relying on coincidence and chance (other than the characters meeting one another) to create conflict.

In theory, there might be an "opposites attract" angle in mind for the leads, but Sheffer and Madsen play their roles straight. There's never any dithering about her prim and proper upbringing vs. his criminal past or any of that nonsense: they're just undeniably attracted to one another. Their playful electricity is surprisingly infectious, carrying the film along through the dance and into the home stretch, when they go on the lam. Polito, for his part, doesn't play up his villainous "Boss" too much: he's a dick, and he thinks Joe is causing trouble, but he's not a maniacal madman. Jean Smart also has a small role as one of the nuns at Lisa's school, although her role is more notable for her future fame than the character she was given.

Every movie fan has an unbreakable childhood bond for a movie or two, and I'm sure Fire With Fire is that movie for at least a few people. The march of time may have rendered many of its cultural touchstones out of date, but, viewed in 2012, the film holds up pretty nicely, thanks to good chemistry and strong writing.

The Blu-Ray
Unlike Thinner, Olive has stuck with the original poster for Fire With Fire (probably to hook those long-time fans). The back cover is a simple arrangement of photos and text, and the disc is packed into a boxy, cheap Blu-Ray case (with the painted-on logo, instead of the more common foil-embossed style). There is also an insert promoting other Olive Films releases.

The Video and Audio
Fire With Fire's 1.85:1 aspect ratio has been opened up to 1.78:1 for this pleasing but visibly vintage 1080p AVC transfer. After a few of the hazy opening titles have gone by, the film starts to look like a high-definition transfer, with decent rendition of fine detail in the texture of clothes and in people's hair. Colors feel a little boosted -- sometimes the bright green forest looks like it's been painted with pastels -- but appear accurate on the whole. Dark scenes swarm with heavy, heavy grain, but I'll take too much grain over too little any day. Print damage is present but didn't distract from the viewing experience. All in all, a nice-looking '80s Blu-Ray.

Sound on this one is a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track, which sounds quite nice. Dialogue is clean and nicely separated, music is crisp and lively, and the sound of the forest is nicely rendered. The only complaint -- you guessed it -- is the lack of subtitles or captions.

The Extras

I can't imagine Fire With Fire leaving a strong "own it" impression on anyone seeing it for the first time on Blu-Ray, but anyone looking to revisit their favorite teen romance on Blu-Ray will be nicely served by this disc. Recommended.

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