Forget the silly plot, which features two quarreling sibling firemen (Kurt Russell and William Baldwin) dealing with both daddy issues and a sudden outbreak of arson throughout Chicago, and just enjoy the dazzling and often unsettling pyrotechnics of Backdraft, the first film to show a true respect for and fascination with‚ well, fire. Fire becomes a character in this film (one that constantly upstages the all-star ensemble, which also includes Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rebecca De Mornay, Scott Glenn and Donald Sutherland); it’s a live and dangerous creature that grows, breathes and schemes, and no one appreciates its power (and cruelty) more than gruesomely scarred arson investigator Donald ‘Shadow’ Rimgale (Robert De Niro), a man with a few secrets of his own. Director Ron Howard‘s B-movie mystery may fail as a family drama but it more than succeeds as a special effects extravaganza of almost supernatural proportions; you’ll never look at fire the same way again after watching this one (and hopefully you’ll never really have to). Russell, Baldwin and Glenn performed most of their own stunts, ’cause that’s what real men do in a movie like this, dammit.
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