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Fire Down Below

Theatrical Release Poster
Directed by Félix Enríquez Alcalá
Produced by Julius R. Nasso
Steven Seagal
Written by Jeb Stuart
Phillip Morton
Starring Steven Seagal
Marg Helgenberger
Harry Dean Stanton
Stephen Lang
Brad Hunt
Levon Helm
and Kris Kristofferson
Music by Nick Glennie Smith
Distributed by Warner Brothers Pictures
Release date(s) September 5, 1997
Running time 105 min.
Language English

Fire Down Below is a 1997 cult action film directed by Félix Enríquez Alcalá. It stars Steven Seagal as an EPA agent who investigates a Kentucky mine and helps locals stand up for their rights. The film co-stars Marg Helgenberger, Kris Kristofferson, Harry Dean Stanton and Stephen Lang. It includes cameos by country music performers Randy Travis, Mark Collie, Ed Bruce, Marty Stuart and Travis Tritt, and Country-Rocker and member of The Band Levon Helm.

Contents

Plot

In the peaceful Appalachian hills of eastern Kentucky, toxins are being dumped into abandoned mines, causing environmental havoc, but the locals, mindful of their jobs and the power of the mine owners, can do nothing. Environmental Protection Agency CID agent Jack Taggart (Steven Seagal) is sent to investigate, after a fellow agent is found dead, probably not by accident. The EPA has received an anonymous letter from the town of Jackson, Kentucky, and Taggart goes there undercover to continue his colleague's investigations.

It is discovered that Hanner Coal Company, owned by Orin Hanner Sr. (Kris Kristoffersson), is being paid to dump toxic waste into an abandoned coal mine shaft, so Jack is assigned to go to the small town of Jackson, where his cover is that of assistant and volunteer carpenter to a local church. He stays in a room in the church's basement, and begins his cover work by repairing the roof at a house where one of the children is sick because of the pollution. He attempts to question the family, but they don't have much to say. He has little better results elsewhere; even the man who tipped off the EPA is decidedly taciturn. While testing the water, Taggart wanders into a local marijuana field, and is accosted by the growers. After disarming them, he tells them that he has no interest in arresting them.

The men responsible for the other agent's death soon notice Taggart's presence. As a newcomer to the small local community, he is threatened by Hanner's son Orin, Jr. (Brad Hunt), the incompetent local tool of the company, the corrupt local Sheriff (Ed Bruce), and several thugs that work for them. The thugs in question start by leaving two rattlesnakes in his dwelling; Taggart responds by capturing the snakes alive and leaving them in the pickup that the thugs were driving, causing them to crash. Soon after, five of them attack him while he is buying supplies, and receive a severe beating as a result. Orin then orders one of his truck drivers to arrange an "accident" by running him off the road, but Taggart escapes alive while the driver is killed.

While these conflicts are occurring, Taggart strikes up a relationship with Sarah, a young woman who lives in the town. She is regarded as an outcast because of her father's murder, a crime that she was accused but not convicted of. Eventually, she agrees to testify against Orin and his people, much to the anger of her brother Earl, who actually committed the crime. He sets the church on fire, killing the preacher who was helping Taggart in the process, and then attempts to collapse the mine with Taggart inside it. Taggart escapes, but several miners are killed, including Earl.

With evidence and a witness, Taggart calls the FBI to take Sarah into protective custody. However, they are revealed to be either corrupt or imposters, and a firefight ensues. Taggart kills one agent, then sends the second back to Orin with a message that he'll be coming for him next. However, when Orin is arrested and charged, he gets off with a slap on the wrist for the environmental violations.

Taggart goes back into the town and fights his way past the last of Orin Jr's thugs, then demands the truth from him. Orin agrees to turn state's evidence, implicating his father on conspiracy and murder charges. Taggart goes to Las Vegas to arrest Orin Sr. Upon hearing about the reception awaiting him in federal prison, Orin produces a gun and resists, but Taggart shoots him in the shoulder and he is taken into custody. Taggart then returns to Jackson, where he is reunited with Sarah.

Box office

The film proved to be yet another financial failure and only grossed $6 million on its opening weekend. Although this is described as being more successful than On Deadly Ground, another one of Seagal's environmental efforts, it actually did not perform as well at the box office. The filmed grossed $16,228,448 in the USA.[1]

Trivia

  • The closing credits has the song "Paradise" (lyrics here) by John Prine which implies the long-term impacts of coal mining on rural areas including health hazards.
  • The movie is set in the town of Jackson, which is in Breathitt County. However, when Seagal's character finds the newspaper article describing the acquittal of Helgenberger's character for the murder of her father, the article sets the location as Jenkins, which is in Letcher County, more than 75 miles away.

References

External links

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