Backdraft | Chicago Reader

Backdraft

Kurt Russell and William Baldwin star as fire-fighting brothers in Chicago carrying on the tradition of their late father, in an action picture written by former firefighter Gregory Widen and directed by Ron Howard. While Russell is at his best, creating a character of some density and mystery, Baldwin mainly registers like a cavity on the screen; his character seems both underwritten and uninhabited. Howard, as usual, seems bent on mixing genres to make several movies at once—monster movie, crime movie, coming-of-age movie, and action-adventure movie (among others)—yielding an overall narrative that's not boring but not especially suspenseful or focused either. Visually speaking, the film does pretty well with fire-as-spectacle, less well with everything else (Howard tends to trot out fuzzy-toned Spielbergian backlighting on any pretext). With Scott Glenn, Jennifer Jason Leigh (basically wasted), Rebecca De Mornay, and Donald Sutherland and Robert De Niro, both working minor wonders with their limited parts.

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