FIREPOWER (1979) – Sophia Loren, James Coburn, Tony Franciosa, Billy Barty and O.J. “Alec Baldwin Times Two” Simpson star in this late 70s combination of an espionage tale and a caper flick. Throw in Eli Wallach, Jake LaMotta and Victor Mature and you’ve got what may sound like the cast of a disaster movie but actually Firepower is a very good film from Lew Grade.
Sophia Loren, looking fantastic but a bit too thin, stars as Adele Tasca, widow of Dr Ivo Tasca, who was killed by the underlings of international tycoon and fugitive Karl Stegner. In a nod to the times, Stegner is a composite of the likes of Robert Vesco with sprinklings of Aristotle Onassis, Howard Hughes and Stavros Niarchos. For a modern version of a bloated rich pig figure wanted in certain countries and reviled around the world think of George Soros.
At any rate, Adele’s husband was bumped off because he was about to deliver evidence and testimony against the reclusive Karl Stegner tying him to untold numbers of deaths from tainted pharmaceuticals.
With the FBI and CIA stymied, Adele pressures the feds to call in Jerry Fanon, played by James Coburn. In another concession to the times in which Firepower was made, the movie bluntly deals with collaboration between the CIA and organized crime as international mercenary Fanon is coerced out of retirement to bring in Karl Stegner alive and able to stand trial for his countless crimes over the decades.
Jerry assembles a team to track down the elusive Vesco, I mean Stegner, and to pull off the seemingly impossible abduction. Along the way there are double crosses and even a triple cross. This is a very well made movie so I won’t spoil any of the surprises for first time viewers.
Firepower is more realistic than James Bond films but not entirely grounded in humdrum reality. There are car chases but none that defy the laws of physics. There are shootouts galore, unarmed combat set pieces in several spots and a dose of arson.
The production values are top-notch. Clearly a lot of money was spent on Firepower and the only reason I can think of for its drop off the public radar is O.J. Simpson’s presence in the cast. He plays a former associate of Coburn’s character and gets recruited into the planned snatch on Stegner.
Eli Wallach plays a crime kingpin, Billy Barty appears as a casino owner and even the real-life Raging Bull himself, Jake LaMotta, shows up. (This film made me picture a stage production of The Odd Couple starring Barty as Felix and Jake as Oscar. But I’m kind of weird.)
This movie is so good that if O.J. is your only reason for avoiding it I will provide ONE spoiler – his character gets killed. So don’t let the presence of one man in the cast cause you to miss out on what is a very well made and entertaining movie.
FOR MY REVIEW OF SIX-STRING SAMURAI, A POST-APOCALYPSE SAMURAI FILM/ SPAGHETTI WESTERN, CLICK HERE.