Review: ‘In the Line of Duty Smoke Jumpers’

Asteak-and-potatoes vidpic about husky firefighter Don Mackey (played by Adam Baldwin with assured virility), "Smoke Jumpers" sticks to the heroic mold. Writers Gy Waldron and Stephen Harrigan offer a straightforward story that could catch viewers off-guard: Suspense may be minimal, lily-white nice guys may finish last, but director Dick Lowry and Baldwin hand the earnest hero conviction.

Asteak-and-potatoes vidpic about husky firefighter Don Mackey (played by Adam Baldwin with assured virility), “Smoke Jumpers” sticks to the heroic mold. Writers Gy Waldron and Stephen Harrigan offer a straightforward story that could catch viewers off-guard: Suspense may be minimal, lily-white nice guys may finish last, but director Dick Lowry and Baldwin hand the earnest hero conviction.

Mackey drops out of planes with his fellow U.S. Forest Service smoke eaters to put out forest fires; he’s unwittingly competing with ambitious fireman Timmerman (Rob Youngblood).

Mackey falls hard for barkeep Rene (Linda Frost), a single mom who returns the compliment. The script wastes no time on formalities (or on gratuitous sex scenes); atmosphere, characters and slow dancing in the bar give the telefilm a becoming, if poky, rusticity.

Everyone’s a good sort, even if Timmerman is too ambitious; he’s taken care of. The vidpic’s humor is full of either gusto or tenderness, and the humanness of Don and Rene gives the work whatever drive it has.

Rene and Don start a family, and it begins to look like everything’s okey-dokey — until the dedicated guy is faced with a choice of blanketing fires or domesticity. The conclusion is significant and moving.

Baldwin’s a force as Don, and Frost works Rene into a strong, admirable woman. There are no psychological blowups, no startling plot shifts, no human depths plumbed. The vidpic takes its time getting to the point and reflects on heroics, on American pioneering and on strong individuals who do what they’re destined to do.

The fire scenes are often impressive, and the telefilm touts the bravery of the firefighters. Unencumbered by vulgarity or crudeness, it’s a 1930s adventure pic without the formula; it may not pull Nielsen mobs, but it’ll catch viewers seeking an adventuresome story about two people in love.

Tech credits are fine, with all involved following their line of duty.

In the Line of Duty Smoke Jumpers

(Sun. (11), 9-11 p.m., NBC)

Production

Filmed in Placerville by Patchett-Kaufman Entertainment. Exec producer, Kenneth Kaufman; supervising producer, Ann Kindberg; producer-director, Dick Lowry; writers, Gy Waldron, Stephen Harrigan.

Crew

Camera, Henry Lebo; editor, William B. Stich; production designer, Guy Barnes; art director, Chip Radaelli; sound, Brian Bidder; music, Mark Snow.

Cast

Cast: Adam Baldwin, Lindsay Frost, Timothy Carhart, Rob Youngblood, Lynette Walden, Spencer Garrett, Jana Marie Hupp, Noah Emmerich, Bill Bolender, Ciara Reed, Steve Hofvendahl, Emma Watts, Lisa Caye Smith, Chris Lawson, Larry Rippenkroeger, Richard Conti, Michael Foley.
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