Quietfire (1991)

This movie is directed by Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, aka Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington from Welcome Back, Kotter. He also plays the lead.

This movie also stars Karen Black. She is not the lead.

This movie also stars Robert Z’Dar. He is also not the lead, but should be.

This movie also stars Gold’s Gym, which does play a lead role, both as a set and on a sweatshirt.

Yes! It’s an all Z’Dar-studded cast!

A man runs down an empty alley, somewhere in L.A., and this quickly escalates into a car chase, somewhere in L.A. This, in turn, quickly escalates into a shoot out, which quickly escalates into an explosion, somewhere in L.A. The man ends up in a Gold’s Gym, where his friend Jesse, né “Boom Boom” Washington, offers some Gatorade (yellow flavor). “Gotta replace those electrolytes!” Turns out, what the man needed was a surgeon, not electrolytes. He dies from gunshot wounds, but not before warning Jesse that he’s next.

Meanwhile, a politician named J. William Whelan sells arms to whoever’s buying. He blows up a car to show off his merch. Russo (Z’Dar) and his partner (Not Z’Dar) are dirty cops who cover up Whelan’s dealings as he makes a run for the senate. If elected, Z’Dar and Not Z’Dar would become head of security and “get into some real money.”

As Jesse reels from his friend’s murder, he talks about their time in Vietnam. “I’ve seen enough death to last three lifetimes.” This is where we’d typically see a flashback to the war. We’d see Jesse and his friend crawling through a landscape that looks more like the L.A. Basin than the Mekong River, a la Executioner, Part II. We’d see them exchange fire with VC and set off booby traps, and maybe a medic would perform an amputation in the jungle. But Quietfire avoids the flashback clichés by simply not flashing back at all. Instead Jesse sits on a barstool and drones endlessly about Vietnam. This is precisely where you’d run to the bathroom without hitting pause.

Eventually Jesse unravels the murder mystery and ties some shit that went down in Vietnam with Whelan. The connection is unclear, but it doesn’t really matter. You just accept it and hope Z’Dar will show up soon (he doesn’t). Jesse and his girlfriend Jana end up in a fleabag motel where the woman behind the counter sizes Jana up:

“What you looking at Miss Girlfriend, giving me the evil eye? . . .You think you hot shit? You ain’t shit to me, you skinny mini, giraffe neck, ashy leg, Bart Simpson-looking onion head.”

BURN. Note that Miss Girlfriend looks nothing like Bart Simpson, nor does her head look like an onion. But, if you watch this movie, don’t go to the bathroom during that scene.

Also don’t go to the bathroom when Z’Dar interrogates Jesse at the police station.

Despite its yawning plot holes and plodding scenes where people talk, Quietfire is perfectly serviceable. There are just enough entertaining elements to propel the movie forward: a guy who flies out the window, a brawl that breaks out in a very pink apartment, a soundtrack penned by a low-rent Phil Collins, a split screen phone conversation, and a scene where Karen Black rolls up her sleeves to prove she’s not using drugs. I have no idea what Karen Black is doing in this movie, but she does have feathers in her hair and works in a hippie junk shop—the kind that sells dream catchers, not the kind that sells bongs. There are also some choice lines too: “You can fuck up a wet dream, Hank” and “It’s so easy to fuck with people.” Truth. And of course there’s Z’Dar. Any movie with Z’Dar is not going to be horrible. He just adds Z’extra Z’spice to every film he’s in.

Gold’s Gym is thanked in the credits and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs spends the entire movie in a Gold’s Gym sweatshirt. It’s obvious that this is where he got his cast too. There are plenty of brawny ladies in this movie, and their voices are lowered thanks to performance-enhancing drugs. However, these drugs did not enhance their acting.

The main problem of Quietfire is that there isn’t enough Z’Dar. If you are lucky enough to have him in your picture, then he should be in every scene. Otherwise, it’s a waste. It’s like buying a sweet car but then taking the bus everywhere. He is Z’Dar and away one of the best and brightest trash action stars, no Z’Darguments. Even though he doesn’t get too much screen time, you can tell that every molecule of his six feet, two inch frame is enjoying being the trigger-happy villain. Plus, he manages to stuff most of his molecules into a pair of tight jeans.

He is a true Z’Dartist.

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