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By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 21, 1986


J. Lee Thompson
Chuck Norris;
Lou Gossett Jr.;
Melody Anderson;
John Rhys-Davies
Under 17 restricted

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JUST CALL HIM the Karate Kidder. Black-belt redbaiter Chuck Norris takes his first comic role in "Firewalker," a piddling non-adventure with Louis Gossett Jr. as a namby-pamby sidekick. It's Gung-Ho and Gunga Din, in yet another variation on the "Raiders" theme.

These soldiers of misfortune are drawn into a quest for Aztec treasure by Melody Anderson, as a beautiful legal secretary with psychic powers. Pursued by Indians of all sorts, guerrillas of all sorts and just one alligator, the trio seeks gems in the jungles of Central America. Hijinks ensue. High kicks accrue.

The man with the golden foot is a pleasant galoot, but he lacks Arnold Schwarzenegger's sense of self parody and comic timing. These days, an action guy simply has to be as fast with his quips as he is with his fists -- or other body parts. Norris is still fast on his feet, stomping a cantina full of banditos into bean dip. The fight scenes are fine, but only emphasize the plodding pace and the moldy plot

-- a blend of "Poltergeist II," "Temple of Doom" and "Romancing the Stone."

With decent direction, they might have gotten by. But J. Lee Thompson, 70-year-old director of classics like "The Guns of Navarone," is now making such lamentable features as "King Solomon's Mines," and this thing. When the buddies cling by their fingers from a precarious cliff over a boiling lake, we just don't care if they're stew. Thompson makes the perilous crossing about as thrilling as sex among lichen.

Speaking of sex, these action guys are shy, so you'll have to settle for romance -- a nice change of pace. "Uh," says Norris. "You look good." That's about it for sweet nothings. Anderson does tantalize him into playing a little footsie, which he does daintily and just long enough for Gossett to be spirited off by a giant Aztec. Not to worry, though. The three are protected by the prayers of an American Indian shaman (Will Sampson of "Poltergeist II") back home.

There are really only two good words to say about this wreck -- Melody Anderson. The glowing, green-eyed blond has a face that mesmerizes. And she is actress enough to not only survive, but shine in her role as the spirited girl who gets in the way. Aside from Anderson, however, we've been in this temple one too many times before. -- Rita Kempley.FIREWALKER (R) -- At area theaters.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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