Film Review : Backdraft (1991)

IMDB Score – 6.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 73%
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Directed By – Ron Howard
Starring – Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Robert Deniro, Scott Glenn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Donald Sutherland, JT Walsh, and Rebecca De Mornay

Two Chicago firefighter brothers who don’t get along have to work together while a dangerous arsonist is on the loose.

Before I talk about this movie, let me preface this by saying that I grew up in a fire house. My father and brother are firefighters and ever since I was born I have been around the men and women who dedicate their lives to this profession. I just wanted to state that to give my comments context.

This movie kind of sucked. However, this was not due to anything fire related.

First the good. There aren’t many firefighter films but this may be the most accurate in depicting what the job is like. Sure every example on screen is an extreme one, but those events do happen and I’ve seen it myself. The gigantic buildings covered in flames were a real representation of what it’s like when a fire starts eating everything in its path. Why am I explaining fire to you? Have you seen “Ladder 41”? Holy shit, it was like they wanted to make ever single fire look as crazy as humanly possible. Now, did Backdraft do this? To some degree yes it did, but the scenes of the aftermath including the charred remains and the effect fire has on the surrounding buildings…that shit was real. I was impressed with the way Ron Howard did his homework. They also captured the lingo, attitudes, looks, and environment that surrounds living/working in a fire department. None of the characters were really likable and that describes what a family is. A bunch of people who hate each other but will die for one another within a moments notice.

The actual story behind the film, give me a break. I understand this was the 90s, and a little cheese was needed but my god did the script suck. It was cliche after cliche after cliche. There was no originality in the story whatsoever and there were more plot holes than I could count. The last half hour of the film, while stunning in how it was shot, was completely stupid and rushed. The person we have been chasing the entire film for starting these fires had no real reason to do so and didn’t have an actual chance to explain until he was gone. We were told who did it, let it sink in for 27 seconds, and then BOOM, action set piece to end the film that was only used in the film for emotional impact, and there was none, cause none of the characters were likable in any way. I didn’t care. It was a horrible script.

Where did that Baldwin go by the way? Alec is off getting arrested for boozing while still turning in good work on TV. Stephen’s best work was in “The Usual Suspects” but that is compared to his work in “Biodome”. Daniel is a boozer without turning in good work on anything. What happened to William? It’s just kind of weird. Also, Robert Deniro, as high profile an actor as he is, did not get enough screen time. It’s a crime to use him as much as they did. As for Russell, I only like him when Aliens or eye patches are involved.

Don’t watch the film if you’re looking for a gripping thriller. Watch the film if you want to know how fire fighters live their lives when the shit hits the fan. Ron Howard certainly has better films, but as far as pure action goes, this may be his best pure action film. That isn’t saying much though.


Film Review – Drinking Buddies

IMDB Score – 6.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 82%

Directed By – Joe Swanberg
Starring – Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, and Ron Livingston

Luke and Kate are co-workers at a Chicago brewery, where they spend their days drinking and flirting. They’re perfect for each other, except that they’re both in relationships.

First let me start off saying that I don’t understand this poster. It’s the only poster I’ve seen for this movie and Jake Johnson doesn’t have a beard, which he does for the entire movie. Odd. I guess that really doesn’t matter.

So I’ve been actively trying to see more films that delve into the “romance” genre. I’m still not going to watching any Nicholas Sparks adaptions but a balanced film resume is important because people won’t take you seriously otherwise. Some of my favorite films dive into this category (Lost in Translation, Away We Go, Slumdog Millionaire) and while Drinking Buddies isn’t going to reach that kind of pantheon, I will say I quite enjoyed it.

You’re not going to a classic story of love in this and I think that’s why I liked it so much. It felt more real than most films and there’s a very good reason for that. The film is entirely improvised. Swanberg did a very interesting thing and just let the film play out in however direction it went. The film had a basics story structure but the acting was completely improvised by the cast as there was no script. Besides Wilde, whom I’ve never really seen act besides seeing her in House and a horrible Ryan Reynolds movie I’m still binge drinking to forget, I’m a fan of the major players. Jake Johnson needs to be in more things. He and Wilde were excellent together and really seemed to make the other shine. I honestly didn’t think Olivia Wilde was going to be a good actress but she was fantastic. Her role was a little bit like Greta Gerwig’s character in Frances Ha minus the incredible amount of quirk. Livingston and Kendrick, while not in the film as much as the other two, were both very good and played their characters well considering none of them had a script to work with. What I’m trying to say is that the acting was really good on all accounts here.

Swanberg has some serious talent. I almost decided to skip this because Swanberg was a director on the awful V/H/S but if he sticks with his passion projects, which this seemed to me to be, then I think he has a bright future ahead of him. Some may think that this film is a hipsters dream. The characters work at a brewery. Some have beards and ride bikes to and from their studio apartments and the bar they hang out at has a couch in it but I just found it to be a very well made film that was highlighted by fantastic improvised performances.