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Backdraft


A cheesy B-movie script spruced up with spectacular special effects and a terrific cast, 1991's BACKDRAFT still burns bright as an action film nearly 25 years after its release.

Kurt Russell and William Baldwin are the McCaffrey brothers, Bull and Brian.

After watching their legendary Chicago firefighter Dad die battling a blaze, Bull grows up to fight fires with more bravado than brains.

His younger brother Brian struggles with his desire to be a fireman, which is constantly at odds with the thought of facing the foe that killed his father before his eyes.

When a particularly clever and nasty arsonist with a penchant for creating spectacular fires begins his reign across Chicago, the brothers are forced to work together to battle the blazes.

Russell is one of my favorite actors, but Bull is one of his least likable roles, all macho bravado and self centered motives that begin to endanger the lives of those around him in explosions of beer soaked rage.

Scott Glenn is great as Axe, a fellow firefighter, Robert DeNiro is very good as an arson investigator that takes Brian under his wing and Donald Sutherland nearly steals the movie as a jailed arsonist bringing Hannibal Lecter style insight into their current problem.

William Baldwin is pretty damn good as Brian (whatever happened to that Baldwin brother?) but poor Jennifer Jason Leigh, a terrific actress, comes across as stiff and robotic playing the assistant to a shady politician. I'll blame the hopelessly bad dialogue and a poorly written role instead of Leigh.

The story of the brothers and their macho antics are strictly the stuff of second rate movies, but Director Ron Howard and his special effects team stage the most realistic fire scenes ever filmed, making "The Towering Inferno" look like a campfire.

The fire lives and breathes, roaring and exploding unpredictably and creating some terrific scenes throughout and a jaw dropping finale.

Hans Zimmer's music score is an 80's classic and the photography by Mikael Salomon (The Abyss, Far and Away) is excellent.

If you aren't holding your breathe in the final warehouse blaze for twenty minutes, you aren't paying attention.

Cheezy drama? Indeed. Amazing action sequences and hugely entertaining? You bet.

BACKDRAFT still blazes its way to a smoldering B a quarter century after its release.

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