Finding a film in which William Baldwin doesnít suck is a rarity. This is one of them, and for mostly good reasons.William Baldwin and Kurt Russell are brothers as well as firefighters, and both assigned on the same unit. They both have differences they fight, they splitÖ oh and an arsonist is causing havoc and I mean explosive havoc, killing certain people that are connected with something so mysterious it ends up pretty high on the political level.
The story is formula, brothers butting heads and splitting only to reunite in the most dramatic moment of both their lives. Throw in Jennifer Jason Leigh as a hot secretary working for a corrupt government guy (JT Walsh) and you have a romantic liaison with Baldwin. Itís expected, since all the films that Iíve seen Willie Baldwin in always have a girl that sheís banging. On Kurtís side you have the truncated marriage, with Rebecca DeMornay playing the estranged wife. And being the hot babe that DeMornay is, Iím glad Russell got back to her (you know itís going to happen) otherwise, the guy is a complete asshole.
Does this make it a bad movie? No, actually, itís rare that a Ron Howard movie goes off as being a terribly bad movie. Far from it, itís quite a film in its own right, with an interesting story to tell, and packed with some truly impressive FX and action scenes and drama. Thereís quite a great deal of suspense and corruption and politics in the movie, as the film shifts focus from the predictable brother bickering and starts trailing down the serial arsonist down, reaching a very effective climax by the beginning of the filmís third act. All this is sustained by the dramatic talents of Robert De Niro as a fire investigator, Scott Glenn as one of the firemen that knew both the brotherís father and a memorable cameo appearance by Donald Sutherland as a convicted loony arsonist. It also gives you a great insight at the work of firefighters and the several things that drive these men to do what they do on the line.
The fiery FX is one of the big highlights of the film, and is supported with some great sound FX of the whooshing fires around. The action scenes are impressive and well-staged. All in all a respectable outing for Ron Howard.In the end, Backdraft is a pretty solid whodunit, despite the hiccups that it contains due to some predictable bylines. But once it shifts to the dark side, make sure you have a fire suit handy. 3.5-5