13th May2022

‘Firestarter (2022)’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Zac Efron, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Sydney Lemmon, Kurtwood Smith, John Beasley, Michael Greyeyes, Gloria Reuben | Written by Scott Teems | Directed by Keith Thomas

Zac Efron stars in this Blumhouse-produced remake of the 1984 thriller, based on a novel by Stephen King. Unfortunately, though the Blumhouse name is usually a sign of reasonable quality, something seems to have gone wrong this time round, because Firestarter is a distinct disappointment that lacks anything even remotely resembling a spark.

The plot begins with a distortion-heavy flashback sequence that plays during the opening credits and establishes that Andy McGee (Zac Efron) and girlfriend Vicky Tomlinson (Sydney Lemmon, granddaughter of Jack) were both part of an experimental programme in their college years, where they were given a dose of a low-grade hallucinogen called LOT-6 and exhibited special powers. Years later, Andy and Vicky, now married, are on the run with their pre-teen daughter Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), who’s beginning to develop pyrokinetic powers she can’t control.

It transpires that The Shop – the secret government agency behind the intial programme – are desperate to get their hands on Charlie, so head honcho Captain Hollister (Gloria Reuben) dispatches ruthless Native American bounty hunter John Rainbird (Michael Greyeyes) to find her and bring her in. Meanwhile, Charlie has an incident with her powers that draws the attention of the authorities, putting her squarely in The Shop’s sights.

The cast, to be fair, are fine. Efron’s effortless charisma means he’s never less than watchable, while Armstrong does a decent enough job as Charlie and Gloria Reuben adds some texture to Hollister by presumably ad-libbing some swear words and attitude into her dialogue. Otherwise, the film’s biggest achievement is its commitment to diversification – Hollister has been gender-swapped, while Rainbird is now played by a Native American actor, rather than by George C. Scott.

Sadly, when it comes to new ideas for a Firestarter remake, that seems to be as far as the producers got. It doesn’t help that Keith Thomas’ direction is extremely flat throughout – the action sequences are dull, the pacing is all over the place and there’s never any sense of suspense or tension.

Moreover, the script makes some truly baffling decisions in the third act that are likely to seriously annoy anyone with a fondness for either the book or the original movie. If anything, it feels like a planned climax has been abandoned completely, because instead the movie reaches a certain point and just…stops.

The minimum you would expect from a 2022 remake of a 1984 film is a significant improvement in the special effects sequences, but that’s not the case here. Instead, they’re just so-so, with the possible exception of a grisly sequence involving a cat that doesn’t exactly do the movie any favours.

Ultimately, there’s nothing here at all to make Firestarter worth your while – it’s not even enjoyable in a so-bad-it’s-good sort of way, it’s just a pointless, half-hearted remake where you can feel the interest of the filmmakers slipping away as you watch it. Track down the 1984 version instead – that, at least, has a climax with serious firepower.

* 1/5

Firestarter is in cinemas now.


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