Backdraft 2 Movie Review: Chicago Fire

I really like how Universal plumbs its catalog for titles to make direct to video sequels. It’s a good way to give movies that wouldn’t generate theatrical sequels solid follow ups like Hard Target and Kindergarten Cop. I’m pleased they’re extending this practice beyond Scorpion Kings and Death Races to their prestige titles like Backdraft. I guess advances in CGI fire made Backdraft 2 feasible. They do weekly TV shows about firemen now.

Although the opening scene of Backdraft 2 doesn’t show an actual blaze, only the hoses and charred aftermath. So they work around it but save the good effects for the set pieces. Arson investigator Sean McCaffrey (Joe Anderson) can tell a burned body was murdered before the fire. He also wears his dad’s coat to the scenes.

In a way, Sean fills both the Robert De Niro and Kurt Russell roles. He’s the son of Russell’s character but conducts the arson investigation like De Niro’s. There’s a lot of fire tech talk and the finale of Backdraft plays a significant role in the emotional backstory of Sean and Brian (William Baldwin)’s relationship.

It’s nice that they tied it in. They could have made Backdraft 2 a completely standalone arson story but they cared enough to deal with the original nearly 30 years later. Even actors who don’t return, their characters are acknowledged.

Okay, that one’s probably real.

CGI fire looks like CGI fire but what are you gonna do? They wouldn’t make a theatrical movie with practical fire anymore either. Howard made the definitive practical fire movie with the original. Fire deaths are a bit more gruesome in the sequel, and yes, we get to see the smoke billowing out and back under the door for the backdraft. There may be a practical blast or two.

Backdraft 2 is a lot of investigating and interviewing but so was the original. Everyone remembers the fires but it’s still a mystery. When Sean visits Ronald Bartel (Donald Sutherland) he’s still compelling as an arsonist Hannibal Lecter. His burn scars are gone but the man is 83. I don’t blame him for not sitting through prosthetic makeup again.

Ron Howard doesn’t have anything to worry about here, but since he never made a Backdraft 2, the sequel we got is a worthwhile continuation of the McCaffrey family.

Written by
Fred Topel also known as Franchise Fred has been an entertainment journalist since 1999 and specializes in writing about film, television and video games. Fred has written for several outlets including About.com, CraveOnline, and Rotten Tomatoes among others. His favorite films include Toy Story 2, The Rock, Face/Off, True Lies, Labyrinth, The Big Hit, Michael Moore's The Big One, and Casablanca. We are very lucky and excited to have Fred as part of the We Live Entertainment team. Follow him on Twitter @FranchiseFred and @FredTopel

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