Backdraft (1991)

A big budget, big bucks populist action picture spotlighting he men in peril, this Ron Howard directed fire fighting drama features really amazing fire scenes but suffers from trying to be two different pictures at once. The interesting story is a Silence of the Lambs rip off about fire investigator Robert DeNiro and imprisoned arsonist Donald Sutherland working out who's torching prominent Chicagoans, though it winds up with a highly guessable revelation involving the prominently billed supporting actor who has so little to do that he might as well be wearing a 'Mystery Culprit' t-shirt. Unfortunately, the DeNiro Sutherland plot takes a back seat to a hokey family drama as fire-fightin' brothers Kurt Russell and William Baldwin brawl and argue their way through conflagrations as they use up pages of script apparently dumped from some Clark Gable Spencer Tracy macho bonding movie of the '30s. Howard takes care to cast the always-welcome Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rebecca De Mornay as the love interest, but the spectacular pyrotechnics don't really leave space for the womenfolks.
KIM NEWMAN

First Published In: Empire (issue unknown)


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