THE action film, Fire With Fire, is about firefighter Jeremy Colton (Josh Duhamel) who witnesses a murder of a convenience store owner and his son by a Long Beach gang leader (Vincent D’Onofrio).
He enters a protection programme so he can testify against the man who’s a longtime target of police officer Mike Cella (Bruce Willis).
When the lives of the US marshal assigned to protect him, and his girlfriend (Rosario Dawson), are threatened, he enlists the help of a rival gang leader (Curtis Jackson) and takes the law into his own hands.
The film also co-stars rapper 50 Cent and action star Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
“Fire With Fire is one of those films where the action is really earned by the characters,” says director David Barrett.
With an extensive background in action choreography, Barrett delights in the action but Tom O’Connor’s screenplay also explores the length to which one might go to protect a loved one.
The 20-day shooting schedule was rigorous. Says co-producer Randall Emmett, who approached Willis to play Cella: “He is such an iconic presence, I knew he would be a trigger for the film.”
While this is not a huge role for Willis, both Emmett and 50 Cent believe the action film star was attracted to the subtlety of the role.
Casting D’Onofrio as the ruthless Hagan wasn’t straightforward. The actor had just completed his run on Law and Order, but there were scheduling conflicts with a Canadian production.
Emmett eventually worked out a complex relay of rehearsals and performances between the two productions that kept the actor working without a day off for almost three weeks.
For Barrett, it was worth it. He says: “D’Onofrio is one of the most chilling villains I have seen in a very long time. The first time he and Bruce come together, eye-to-eye, was absolutely magical. When the take was over, Bruce just looked at me and said, ‘wow!’.”
Willis worked the first week of shooting, when everybody was just getting together for the first time. “It was interesting to watch Bruce bring the crew together, show us where we had strengths and weaknesses, and help me pick up the ball and really get that first week moving,” says Barrett. “He is great with action. I confessed to him that he is one of the reasons I knew I could direct. One of my first jobs was as a stuntman on Striking Distance, and there was a scene that wasn’t working out. I explained why it didn’t make sense, and Bruce said, ‘this kid should be directing the movie’.”
Fire With Fire was shot entirely on location in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Adds Emmett: “Action junkies like myself want to be engaged in the character and the action is the icing on the cake. Through his choreography, David (Barrett) took really basic shots and found a way to inject a lot of humanity, which makes them special.”