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USA Home Video presents
Firestarter 2: Rekindled (2002)

"Nobody kills that girl but me."
- John Rainbird (Malcolm McDowell)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: June 05, 2002

Stars: Malcolm McDowell, Marguerite Moreau, Danny Nucci
Other Stars: Dennis Hopper, Skye McCole Bartusiak, John Dennis Johnston, Darnell Williams, Deborah Van Valkenburgh
Director: Robert Iscove

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (lots of stuntmen in flaming suits, waving their arms around)
Run Time: 02h:48m:11s
Release Date: May 28, 2002
UPC: 696306031727
Genre: sci-fi

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ B-BB C-

DVD Review

This Sci-Fi Channel mini-series is presented here on DVD as one long movie—pushing three hours—and that's either a good thing or bad thing, depending on how comfortable your movie-watching chair is. Originally intended to be watched over two nights, interspersed with a typically heavy load of commercials, splitting a viewing up into fragments doesn't exactly lessen the experience all that much. Pacing is a bit slow as a result of its mini-series status; everything generally takes twice as long as it should. The sluggish tempo is really accented when you sit down to watch all two hours and fifty minutes at one pop, like I did.

The premise here is that in 1979 a group of college students had been given an experimental psychotropic drug (the mysterious Lot 6), as part of a paid study. The drug enhanced their mental powers exponentially, to varying degrees, and unfortunately also caused a batch of them to commit suicide. Two of these students/guinea pigs married each other and had a female child, Charlie, who was born with the ability to start fires with her mind, as well as hurl big fireballs around like beachballs. She is forced to spend her entire life running and hiding from the evil military/industrial research lab that wants her—and any other living remnants of the Lot 6 program—dead.

This new film picks up twenty or so years after the events in the Stephen King novel (or the 1984 feature, for that matter), but being familiar with either isn't required to enjoy this sequel. Characters in Firestarter 2: Rekindled spend plenty of time offering detailed info and background, whether through flashbacks, the reading of old case files or viewing mysterious videotapes, to either refresh your memory or bring you up to speed if it's all new to you. The biggest difference here is that George C. Scott's wonderfully villainous John Rainbird from the original film is now played by Malcolm McDowell (a fine swap, if you ask me) and the Drew Barrymore character—again from the 1984 film—of Charlie McGee has blossomed into hubba-hot Marguerite Moreau (a REALLY fine swap, if you ask me).

In Firestarter 2: Rekindled Charlie is still on the run from Rainbird's henchmen from Systems Operations, and she has taken a job working at a college library. But it's not just any college library, it's the one where her parents took part in the Lot 6 experiments (maybe not the best place to hide, Charlie). It's not long before she's found out by puppy-eyed Vincent (Danny Nucci), who works for Systems Operations, but who is so clueless he doesn't realize the people he tracks down all end up dead. The nasty Rainbird has also put together a troupe of mutant kiddies, sort a junior X-Men, that he plans to unleash as part of Operation Radiant Thunder. Dennis Hopper even shows up about 48 minutes in as a former Lot 6-er with an almost comic ability to know the past, present and future.

McDowell's Rainbird, here sporting some nifty facial burns as part of a prior run in with Charlie, is the most entertaining character in the whole production. McDowell exudes a real campy creepiness, and the story accents his unnatural sexual attraction to Charlie, which puts an oddly dark spin on things. Like all good villains, when he's onscreen the film picks up and becomes enjoyably electric.

Moreau, on the other hand, is certainly eye-pealing, and her preference for tight jeans and a pseudo-belly shirt gets a lot of attention from director Robert Iscove. He stages an early scene where Charlie struts down an alley, in semi-slow motion, setting everything in her path on fire that looks like it came out of a late 1980s big-hair rock video. Did I mention he makes her run through a building in a black tank top while the sprinkler system douses her?

Production values are slightly above typical television fare, but there was never really a moment when I didn't feel like I was watching a made-for-cable flick. There's a lot of talking, a lot of running, more talking, and the action sequences can't help, but I think if you can except that, then you'll be ok with this.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This film looks a lot better to me than it did when originally broadcast on the Sci-Fi channel, considering my cable system seems to think fuzz and grain are good things. USA has released Firestarter 2: Rekindled in a generally sharp 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, and while it will not become the benchmark video disc of 2002, it is certainly cleaner and crisper than most cable signals. This is a darkly composed film, colorwise, and while some of the deeper night shots reveal some fine grain, much of it looks perfectly presentable. Fleshtones are natural, and are reproduced well.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Here's another disc where the 5.1 and the 2.0 mixes are almost interchangeable. Both are pretty aggressive, and considering it has a made-for-cable lineage, it is all the more enjoyable. Bouts of rear channel action—primarily sound effects and a smattering of the score—rise up often enough, though the main dialogue remains anchored cleanly up front. Obviously the 5.1 offers a bit more of a discrete placement of the rear channel cues—compared to the 2.0—but the difference is nominal.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
7 Other Trailer(s) featuring Gosford Park, Seduced, The Demon Within, The Street King, Looking For An Echo, The Man Who Wasn't There, Maybe Baby)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Slim on the extras, with an oddball batch of trailers (Gosford Park, Seduced, The Demon Within, The Street King, Looking For An Echo, The Man Who Wasn't There, Maybe Baby) being a quirky standout. The only drag with the trailers is that they're presented as one big batch of "Coming Attractions", as opposed to separate menu items.

20 chapters (a little thin on a movie pushing 3 hours), quickie filmographies, and a two-page insert touting the "scorching production" that was Firestarter 2: Rekindled.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

The big problem with this film is the length—this did not need to be a two hour and fifty minute film—but as it was originally intended as a slightly padded, two-night mini-series on the Sci-Fi channel, that's a sin that can be overlooked. I think if this had been smashed down and trimmed by an hour or so, then it actually could have been a pretty decent little sci-fi thriller.

But that didn't happen, so we're left with the whole looooooooong thing, and to be honest it's not awful. It's just too long. Moreau makes for one hot mama (alright, there's my cliché quota), and of course McDowell, as if you had any doubt, is Hannibal Lector-rific as the demented Rainbird.


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