Into the Fire starts promisingly enough, or, rather, the soundtrack does: Beneath what sounds like a slasher-movie rendition of Moby’s “Anthem,” Walter Hartwig Jr. (Sean Patrick Flanery) of the NYC Harbor Police discovers a dead woman’s body in the water outside one of New York City’s airports. But the sinister tone of Steve O’Reilly and Matt Anthony’s score is fleeting—like Hartwig himself, it’s soon touched by an angel. As he stares into the face of the dead woman (Melinda Kanakaredes, who also plays her grieving sister) he cannot save, Hartwig experiences some kind of rapture, a spiritual crisis anticipated by a visual non sequitur of the man jumping into the water in a Christ-like pose. Fired from his job, Hartwig befriends June (JoBeth Williams), a hypoglycemic woman whose son died on 9/11, tending to her and her granddaughter’s needs as if he were filing for a membership in some messianic complex society. With lines like “being in debt to someone in the spiritual sense” a dime a dozen here, it’s obvious that writer-director Michael Phelan means to explore the collective wear and tear that haunts post-9/11 New York City using a faith-based initiative (the three leads have all lost someone special, and each dead person seems to represent one part of a holy trinity), but he dances around the issue of religion as if he were afraid of scaring off secular distributors. This cop-out has a creepifying effect on the film in the sense that its solipsistic main character feels as if he’s being walked through the misleadingly convivial first stage of cult indoctrination. The film looks amazing for a low-budget cheapie, but Phelan’s obsessive fixation on panning into and away from his actors only adds to the overall tone of self-aggrandizement. And with the action sporadically cut with vignettes of the sometimes half-naked Hartwig cutting himself or moping beneath chords and lyrics of the film’s original rock songs, Into the Fire begins to feel an awful lot like a 90-minute version of Collective Soul’s “The World I Know” as directed by Scott Stapp.
- Slowhand Cinema Releasing
- 93 min
- Michael Phelan
- Michael Phelan
- Sean Patrick Flanery, Melinda Kanakaredes, JoBeth Williams, Pablo Schreiber, Lydia Grace Jordan, Ron McLarty
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