Conceived as an expensive look at the lives of firefighters, something burned up in the process between script and final cut. In the ashes, all that remain are the fires. Anything resembling plot, character development, acting, coherence, or real people was extinguished in the lab.
Kurt Russell and William Baldwin are handsome sibling rivals who learn to love each other in the flames. Jennifer Jason Leigh, as a political activist at City Hall, and Robert De Niro, as a beleaguered fire chief, are reduced to walk-ons.
Donald Sutherland makes a worthless guest appearance as a demented arsonist behind bars (director Ron Howard’s homage to Dr Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, no doubt).
There are lots of red herrings, falling pipes, and exploding windowpanes, a minor mystery about the true identity of the wacko who is setting all the fires and burning down Chicago. And when the firemen stop inhaling smoke fumes, they light cigarettes and say “Fire is a living thing. It breathes, it eats, and it hates. Only way to beat it is to love it a little.”
This is not a movie about real people. It’s a movie about uncorking the valves on fire hydrants. Pyromaniacs may love it, but the only real audience for this bomb is the dogs who chase fire trucks.
Robert De Niro
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Rebecca De Mornay
J T Walsh
Chief John Fitzgerald
Tony Mockus Sr
Kevin M Casey