Backdraft (1991) Directed by Ron Howard. With Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Robert DeNiro, Donald Sutherland, Scott Glenn and Rebecca De Mornay.
From the pen of Highlander writer, Gregory Widen, Backdraft is a big Universal studio film that feels part theme park attraction, part botched dramatic casserole of tasty ingredients.
Directed by Ron Howard, it is frustrating to watch a film that invests so much time establishing its characters, only to have their convoluted plot threads get in the way of any sense of engagement.
Kurt Russell and William Baldwin are firefighting brothers. In the worst bring-your-kid-to-work-day ever, child Kurt Russell witnesses his firefighter Dad (also Kurt Russell!?) killed on the job which sets him on a path to grow up to become firefighting Kurt Russell…just like pops.
Baldwin follows suit, only he’s a rookie. Amid the sibling rivalry, Kurt worries he’ll lose his brother like he lost his Dad.
In their central roles, Russell and Baldwin are good enough but the movie doesn’t suffer for a lack of quality performers. Robert DeNiro, Donald Sutherland, Rebecca De Mornay, Scott Glenn…the film is home to talented actors in scenes that are individually good yet the overall piece is as structurally unsound as the burning buildings it depicts.
If there are praises to be sung, they should be directed toward the staging of the blazing action. Explosions abound as eruptions of fire billow out into corridors. We have a poetic shot of a fireman running slow motion through a burning doorway carrying an axe and a rescued child, all accompanied by a schmaltzy Hans Zimmer score to help pedal a sense of heroic chivalry the movie can never truly own.
At over 25-minutes too long with numerous half-baked plot threads that feel like they belong on the cutting room floor, Backdraft becomes an endurance devoid of pace or momentum.