Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Netflix Instant Queue Movie Review: "Backdraft" (1991)

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Director: Ron Howard
Year: 1991
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 17 minutes

Brian McCaffery (William Baldwin) has just graduated from the Chicago Firefighters Academy and is finally ready to become a fireman like his brother Steve (Kurt Russell) is, and father Dennis (also Kurt Russell) was. Brian has been reluctant join the department due to seeing his father killed on the job when he was just a young boy. Brian, much to his chagrin, is assigned to station 17 where his brother is Lieutenant. Steve and Brian don't always get along and don't see much of each other.  On the night of his graduation, a Backdraft fire blows a man off his porch and through his car windshield; Station 17 responds to put out the fire. Similar fires start to go off around town and Donald 'Shadow' Rimgale (Robert De Niro) is brought in to investigate these fires and to determine their cause. If they are arson, they must catch whoever is responsible.  

"Backdraft" is one of those films that seemed wildly popular when it first came out and one that BigJ remembered really liking when he was younger, though his interest and knowledge of it has seemed to fade over the years. Seeing it available on Netflix's Instant Queue, we decided to give it another go around because, why not? Watching it again, it is still a decent enough film but it's not as good as BigJ remembers. It does have some very good elements to its action sequences, though, and they are by far the best part of the film. All of the fire and explosions are done exceptionally well and Ron Howard and his effects department did a fantastic job of bringing the real-life intensity of fires and backdrafts to the big screen. As for the rest of the story and everything that is not on fire, it's rather mediocre. The plot itself is minimal as it focuses on Brian, played by one of the 'that's not Alec Baldwin' Baldwin brothers. Brian is a character who is not at all compelling outside of the fires he extinguishes. Well, fires, and that his most interesting attribute is that he is really good at quitting jobs. Though Brian and his relationship with his brother and their sibling rivalry is the primary focus of the film, the meat of the story lies in the fire scene investigations that Robert De Niro's character Donald Rimgale is conducting, plus the "whodunit" mystery behind it. Brian eventually becomes part of this plot line when he quits yet another job. The movie is pretty dated even though it was made in 1991, which doesn't seem like that long ago until we remind ourselves that 1991 was 24 years ago. Damn, are we old. The entire movie feels very 90's, even in its dialogue and lingo. Something we wouldn't have noticed at all in the past becomes very apparent in 2015, and that is primarily the fact that everyone in the movie smokes. There is hardly a scene where somebody doesn't have a cigarette in their mouths and even when the firefighters are putting out blazes, they still find the time to light up a cancer stick, water hose in hand and ashes still falling from the once roaring conflagration not 15 minutes prior. Man, it's really no wonder there was a huge uptick in youth smoking in the 90's with films like this. Overall, "Backdraft" is a good for a romp with nostalgia, or if you're a Billy Baldwin fan, but we can't imagine that you are.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 71%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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