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Heaven's Burning (1997)

After No Way Back I half expected the worst from Heaven's Burning.  Could this be another corny direct to video American action film?  Nope, Heaven's Burning is Russell's final Australian feature film outing before his Hollywood career started going blockbuster.  And one thing I've noticed from Russell's early films is that the low budget Australian pictures always seem to be a little more interesting than their American counterparts.  That's certainly the case with Heaven's Burning, in fact I think it's probably the most interesting out of all of Russell's early films and could have been something great.

Heaven's Burning is the story of two individuals thrown into a circumstance and through that circumstance grow to become very close.  Midori is a young Japanese girl who has recently been married, but she's married a man she doesn't really love.  It was her plan to leave her husband, Yukio, on their honeymoon in Australia and meet up with her lover, but he chickened out never showed up leaving her to fend for herself in a foreign land.  Unfortunately for her she's captured during a bank robbery and held as a hostage in the escape, after the robbery she's taken out to a field and about to be shot but the getaway driver, Colin (Russell Crowe), saves her by killing one of the men and leaving the other alive (big mistake).

The two of them head off into the middle of Australia trying to stay as far away from the surviving robber as possible.  They're relationship is a little rocky at first, but after Midori saves Colin's life the two of them start to become a team, a modern day Bonnie and Clyde by robbing banks together.  Now the two of them are making the news and this angers Yukio who feels like he's been played the fool, he in turn sets off to find his wife and kill her, as does Colin's bank robbing partner and the police.  With three different groups on their tail Colin and Midori have to play all their cards right to survive.

Heaven's Burning was a real surprise, I expected No Way Back quality or worse, but while the story is extraordinarily odd it's actually quite entertaining.  To best describe the story I would say it's a mixture of a Guy Ritchie film with a little Tarantino mixed in.  Neither one of those directors have appealed to me much in the past, nor has their films, but Heaven's Burning has the gritty vibe and the mixture of bizarre story-line with extreme violence and subtitle comedy that makes it hard to stop watching.  While watching this I thought I'd tweet Russell, telling him I was surprisingly enjoying the film and thought it mirrored some of Ritchie's past work, shortly after he actually tweeted that "Heaven's Burning would have been a really good film had Guy Ritchie directed it."  No arguments from me there. With all the ingredients of a Ritchie film, had Ritchie actually been behind the wheel one could only imagine the final result.

What had me hooked the most in this film were the action sequences.  They are relatively brief but still quite unexpected and rather brutal, meaning everyone in this film is a pretty spot on shot.  Along with some dark and subtle comedy, Heaven's Burning is simply an interesting film to watch and while none of the performances, including Crowe's, are anything magnificent the characters and story itself is strange enough that it's definitely not going to bore most people.

The only real negative thing I can say is it does drag in a few spots, but other than that I'll probably be surprising quite a few of you in giving this one a relatively high score compared to the the last four or five films.  This is also one of the few earlier Crowe pictures I'd actually say a larger group of people, other than simply Crowe fans would enjoy.  If your a big fan of Richie's crime film's or Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, you might get a kick out of this one.  While it definitely won't excel any of them, I think fans of those would get some enjoyment out of it, personally I was quite surprised how much I did.



  1. huh. maybe i'll have to go watch it again.
    i love the barbed-wire tatt...

  2. Hi. I'm here reading your RC reviews after following a link that becks posted at crowecrossing.
    The scene I find compelling in HB is the one where his character is being tortured in the hotel room. His eyes are riveting as his fear and horror are clearly shown. He's physically restrained and his mouth is taped shut, so his eyes have to say it all. Amazing scene.

  3. @Indy_fab - yes that definitely was a head turning scene!


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