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Ablaze is a 2002 direct-to-DVD action film with an ensemble cast including actors Ice-T, Tom Arnold and Michael Dudikoff. Unlike most firefighter films (eg. Backdraft, Ladder 49 and The Towering Inferno, which were all released theatrically), Ablaze is so far one of the only feature length firefighter films to be released straight to DVD along with the 2003 film Firefight.


Captain Jack Thomas (John Bradley) and his fellow firefighters confront Wendell Mays (Tom Arnold), a corrupt and power-hungry boss of an oil refinery and local hospital until the city goes up in flames and threatens every place in the vicinity including the hospital.

Why It Sucks

  1. The story is extremely weak.
  2. The film disputes on how the massive fire really started.
  3. There are a number of continuity errors (e.g. When the fire trucks respond to fires, they somehow change from older brands that are now defunct and are no longer manufacturing fire trucks to present day brands that are still in service and are still manufacturing fire trucks and there’s even a part where you can clearly see a reflection of a crew member on the side of the fire truck holding a boom microphone while it goes out to the first fire scene.)
  4. Numerous major plotholes (eg. bribery, talking about fishing, shooting a neighbor's rabbit, scenes that cut to the hospital including a scene where a woman is pregnant and complaining about how much it hurts etc.)
  5. False advertising: on the back of the DVD, the plot states that the city is being held hostage by an arsonist. Well, there's an arsonist, but he doesn't take the city hostage. He dies after he sets off his incendiary device that's strapped on his body and he doesn't jump into the lake behind him.
  6. There is unnecessary overuse of stock footage from the beloved 1970s TV series Emergency!, and films like 1993's Striking Distance with Bruce Willis as well as the 1979 disaster film City On Fire with Henry Fonda and Ava Gardner. It’s okay to use stock footage about once or twice, but overusing it is a bad idea.
  7. The characters are lame, boring and forgettable.
  8. The name of the fire department isn't given, but it's assuming that it's a fire department in Southern California. After the end credits are shown, there is a statement that reads that the film was shot in Los Angeles.
  9. The firefighters don't wear their masks for most of the film.
  10. Wendell Mays is a clichéd power hungry villain who isn't really super hateful and comes off as unconvincing.
  11. The film is slow paced at certain points.
  12. The protective gear somehow changes from older out-of-date versions (eg. 3/4 hip boots) to present day bunker jackets, pants, boots and more modern helmets.
  13. In one scene, welders are doing their job while standing in a puddle of gasoline and one of the welders catches on fire.
  14. Boring version of the hit film Backdraft, and speaking of which, one scene rips off that film where a firefighter is told to keep an eye on Captain Thomas, but he separates from him. The only difference is the other firefighter walks out and just leaves Captain Thomas inside the house in grave peril.
  15. One of the characters acts like he's in two places at the same time.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. The fire effects are pretty good and look mostly practical.
  2. The director's commentary on the DVD is pretty interesting.
  3. The suspenseful and heroic sounding music is pretty adrenaline pumping, especially during the opening scenes.
  4. A lot of interesting firefighting action.
  5. The fire trucks look nice.
  6. The film has a possible potential of being an exciting adrenaline pumping thrill fest.
  7. Certain performances aren't that awful (eg. Ice-T's character is tough, no-nonsense and means business).
  8. It looked like the actors and actresses were having a lot of fun in the film.
  9. The firefighters are awesome in the film, despite their names being not so memorable.
  10. Fun quotes (eg. "Requesting backup!", "Send two water wagons as backup! We'll break in first!" and "Nobody burns!", the motto for the members of Station 19)
  11. The chase between Denning and Freddy was adrenaline pumping.
  12. It was pretty interesting that this was one of the first straight to video firefighter films ever made.
  13. The film was well choreographed.
  14. Despite the brain-damaged storyline, the film has moments here and there that are somewhat easy to get through.
  15. Ice-T starring as a cop in a firefighter movie was interesting.


Ablaze currently doesn’t hold a critic score on Rotten Tomatoes nor an average of certain number out of 10, but the audience score holds an average rating of 2.5 out of 5. The audience score, however is 40%. Robert Pardi of TV Guide described the film as “Far from of delivering three alarm fire action, this smoke-filled disaster movie barely smolders.” On the DVD cover, there's a quote from Earl Dittman of Wireless Magazine that reads "A firestorm of fiery action and suspense!" The film also holds a 3.2 out of 10 on IMDb.


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