Film / Firehead

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From the producer of Space Mutiny comes Firehead, a 1991 film that does for spy thrillers what Mikhail Gorbachev did for Communism.

A Soviet supersoldier, Ivan Tigor, defects to the United States rather than use his laser-vision on innocent protesters. Once in America, he goes rogue and begins blowing up munitions factories. To bring Ivan in from the cold, his handlers enlist Warren Hart (Chris Lemmon), an NIH chemist. But when Hart finds Ivan, he learns that things are more complicated than they appear. Together, they must thwart a plot by a crypto-fascist (Christopher Plummer) who plans to use Ivan's attacks as a pretext for world war.

Along the way, they bump into Martin Landau, eat hamburgers, and rescue the president.


This film provides examples of:

  • Alternate DVD Commentary: In 2013, it was the subject of a RiffTrax commentary featuring Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett.
  • Artistic License Gun Safety: Myla gives Hart a high-powered firearm which he has no idea how to use. She tells him, "When you need it, you'll figure it out."
  • As You Know: Vaughn delivers one to Fulbright in the computer lab.
    Vaughn: "I have just spent the last tedious half-hour with you erasing any and all evidence of our activities from the computer bank!"
  • A-Team Firing: During the showdown in Special Operations headquarters, characters exchange heavy gunfire down narrow hallways, but nobody is hurt.
  • Attack Reflector: Vaughn incapacitates Ivan with a device that absorbs his laser-vision and reflects it back at him.
  • Badass on Paper: Myla is described as a "top assassin", but she never kills anyone, she is easily taken hostage by a chemist, and she is always two steps behind the other characters.
  • Berserk Button: Don't ever say that Vaughn is not in control of the situation.
  • Boom, Headshot: How Pendleton gets his.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Shortly before putting his scheme into action, Vaughn has both Hart and Ivan incapacitated and confined. He could easily kill both of them, but instead leaves them alive to foil his scheme.
  • Callback: After killing Vaughn, Hart recycles Taggart's "clean as a wolf's tooth" line.
  • Commie Nazis: The Upper Order conference room features portraits of both Benito Mussolini and Josef Stalin.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Vaughn's cronies in the Upper Order are all factory-owners and industrialists.
  • Designated Love Interest: Myla Buchanan. As the only woman in the film, she is obligated to fall in love with the protagonist.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Hart is reluctant to accept a weapon from Myla, though he later gets used to it.
  • End of Episode Silliness: Hart and Ivan reading comic books in the hospital.
  • Everything Is Online: Even back in 1990, you could apparently access classified CIA files from any terminal anywhere.
  • Evil Wears Black: The Upper Order wear conspicuous all-black uniforms.
  • False Flag Operation: Vaughn plans to use Ivan's campaign of destruction to manipulate public opinion and obtain increases in defense spending.
  • Flash Forward: The first scene shows Ivan's defection in 1988. The next scene flashes forward to 1990. Hart's first line of dialogue is an As You Know that helpfully points out the time gap:
    Hart: "But that was two years ago, when Ivan defected from the Russians."
  • Government Conspiracy: Vaughn, Fulbright, and many of the other villains are all U.S. government officials.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: The film is set in 1990 during the heyday of Glasnost and Perestroika. The U.S. president is planning a friendly visit to Moscow. Meanwhile Vaughn is desperate to maintain Cold War enmity between Russia and the United States.
  • Hollywood Atlas: Subverted. The initial scene is set in the relatively obscure Soviet republic of Estonia. Moreover, this is a historically plausible setting for a late-80's anti-Soviet protest.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Sitting at a remote terminal, it takes Myla about ten keystrokes to access a specific classified file on the "CIA computer".
  • The Illuminati: The Upper Order appears to be based on this group. They meet in secret, wield immense power, show contempt for the "vulgar throng", and use a pyramid as their emblem.
  • Just Between You and Me: After taking Hart prisoner, Vaughn reveals the details of his nefarious plan to him.
  • Just Following Orders: When Vaughn questions Myla's loyalty, she claims to be nothing more than a government employee following orders.
  • Kid Sidekick: The megaphone-voiced Smith.
  • Large Ham: Christopher Plummer chews the scenery as the villainous Garland Vaughn.
  • Last-Name Basis: Most of the characters. Hart, Vaughn, Fulbright, Pendleton, Smith, etc.
  • The Load: Hart, at least until the third act, when he takes a level in badass
  • The Mole: Vaughn is head of Special Operations, and also head of the Upper Order.
  • The '90s: Especially the synthy soundtrack.
  • Neutral Female: Myla, in more ways than one. Hart and Vaughn pass her back and forth like a frisbee, she initiates none of the action, and everybody is confused about what side she's on.
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: The Upper Order, and Vaughn in particular. A portrait of Nietzsche hangs in the Upper Order conference room. Later, while waiting for the president, Vaughn sits at a desk reading Nietzsche's Theory of Knowledge.
  • No Indoor Voice: Smith doesn't so much speak her lines as screech them.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Ivan. He doesn't even crack a smile during the comedic coda.
  • Pet the Dog: Vaughn is a nasty piece of work, but he dotes on his pet mouse.
  • Pretentious Latin Motto: The Upper Order opens their meeting with a Latin toast.
    "Ad Ordinem Nostrum!"
  • Product Placement: Although they are fugitives from the police, Hart insists on treating Ivan to hamburgers at a Checkers restaurant.
  • Power Glows: When Ivan is straining against the parabolic phase shifter, his face begins to glow red.
  • Pyrokinesis: Ivan's primary superpower.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: In contrast to Vaughn and Fulbright, the U.S. president is interested in diffusing tensions with the Russians.
  • Retired Badass: Admiral Pendleton.
  • Ridiculously Average Guy: Hart wears pleated khakis, panics constantly, and can't land a punch without almost breaking his hand.
  • Russian Guy Suffers Most: Arguably. Hart gets winged in the shoulder, but Ivan needs a full blood transfusion after being poisoned.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Admiral Pendleton (Martin Landau) is killed in his second scene, though he makes one more posthumous appearance.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Ivan's persistent motive.
    Hart: If you love Russia so much, why'd you leave?
    Ivan: They wanted me to kill innocent civilians. I could not do that. It is immoral. And now Americans want me to do the same.
  • Shoot Him, He Has a Wallet!: Vaughn almost shoots his co-conspirator Fulbright, who was just reaching for a pack of cigarettes.
  • Signature Item Clue: A very implausible example. Hart is somehow able to recognize every nondescript car and identify its owner, even when the owner is someone he has only heard about and has never met.
  • The Smurfette Principle: One character is a young girl, but Myla is the only adult woman in the main cast.
  • Storming the Castle: Hart and Ivan break into Special Operations headquarters to take on the Upper Order. Admittedly, the building is not so much a "castle" as it is a thinly disguised suburban middle school.
  • Suspect Is Hatless: The police have only a vague idea of what Hart and Ivan look like. But that doesn't stop them from firing a hail of bullets at the first guys they see who fit their description.
  • Talks Like a Simile:
    Hart: Bombs? What bombs?
    Sheriff: I saw 'em. They were big as hogs' dicks on Sunday!
  • Technobabble: Vaughn busts out the "parabolic phase shifter" to counter Ivan's laser-vision.
  • Unlikely Hero: Warren Hart (Chris Lemmon) is a nebbishy, high-strung chemist with no arms training. But Special Operations decides he is the right man to stop a superhuman terrorist.
  • Wacky Cravings: For Ivan, the freedom to eat snake for breakfast is one of the advantages of living in the United States.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: To gain access to Special Operations computer lab, Hart knocks out the technician. We never see what becomes of the guy, who was presumably an innocent civilian. This is lampshaded in the RiffTrax commentary:
    Kevin Murphy: Meanwhile, the innocent IT guy he punched has severe brain swelling and is currently bleeding out his ears.
    [a few minutes later]
    Bill Corbett: The bleeding IT guy died twenty minutes ago. There's a line of ants already headed to his corpse.
  • Wicked Cultured: Vaughn.
  • Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell: Without the Soviet menace, Vaughn and his friends in the military-industrial complex can no longer profit from cold-war paranoia.
  • Would Hit a Girl: A mild but weird example occurs when Vaughn slams moshpit-style into Myla, apparently on purpose.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Ivan defects from the Soviet Union after being ordered to attack women and children during a protest.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Vaughn kills a mook and leaves the body locked up with Hart, so it will later appear that Hart killed the mook in an attempt to escape.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/Firehead