"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Backdraft 2

Yes, it’s true – in 2019, 28 years after the release of the hit movie BACKDRAFT, it got a DTV sequel. Since I hadn’t seen the original when this came out two years ago I didn’t really pay attention, and kind of assumed it was just an unrelated firefighter movie taking on the brand name.

In fact there’s quite a bit of continuity: original screenwriter Gregory Widen (HIGHLANDER) returns, the lead character is meant to be the grown up son/grandson of Kurt Russell’s characters, William Baldwin returns as Brian McCaffrey (now assistant chief) and Donald Sutherland returns as crazy/fun pyromaniac Ronald Bartel. Also it’s supposed to be the same fire station, there are photos of Russell and Scott Glenn on the wall, the events of part 1 are discussed, and (in a real fuckin stretch) Brian uses the phrase “career dissipation light,” which was already a stretch when he repeated it back to a corrupt Alderman he heard using it 28 years ago. Are we really to believe he loved it so much he made it part of his lingo?

The director (also editor) this time is Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego (APOLLO 18), and I guess they couldn’t get Hans Zimmer to do the score, so they got Randy Edelman (DRAGONHEART). Joe Anderson (ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, SUPREMACY) plays Sean McCaffrey, narrating in a gravelly voice like it’s a noir. In the opening scene he reports to a fire wearing his dead dad’s jacket with “BULL” painted on the back, and goes from giving his condolences to the boyfriend of a fire victim to pointing out the inconsistencies in his story, making him flee and tackling him to the ground. In the tradition of BATMAN, the busted arsonist cries, “Who are you!?” and McCaffrey says, “I’m a firefighter.”

Then the word BACKDRAFT smashes onto the screen.

And then a 2 is added.

Pretty good. I gotta say, this is a competently made DTV sequel, but I think – though I’m not truly qualified to judge this – it’s not what any BACKDRAFT fan would be hoping for from a sequel. BACKDRAFT was a thriller because of the arson investigation part, but I suspect what people really liked was all the stuff about firefighters. This one pretty much abandons that and sticks to arson investigation – Sean does the job his uncle once did, except the office is now in the station where his grandpa, dad and uncle were firefighters. It’s basically a cop movie with different uniforms.

Sean is so much not like a character in part 1 that late in the movie he says that he’s a terrible firefighter because “I suck at the camaraderie and storytelling.” He just likes to be by himself in a burnt out building, or in the warehouse he lives in, or in one of a few empty bars or Chinese restaurants he goes to. He also doesn’t get along with his uncle and avoids his mom (who we do not see). Like a cop in a cop movie, he’s assigned a new partner, Rening (Alisha Bailey, LAKE PLACID: LEGACY) and says that he works alone and then is unfriendly to her but eventually she proves herself, sort of. He’s nicer to a stray dog who in one scene helps him Lassie style to discover the cause of a fire.

There’s a new crime spree similar to in part 1 – bombings that cause a puff of smoke to come out from under a door and then be sucked in and then there’s an explosion. The first one happens to a group of trick-or-treaters who for some reason try turning the door knob after no one answers. Five children is a pretty brutal opening kill in my opinion. (Well, I guess second kill if you count the graphic burned-in-bed corpse at the beginning.)

A big part of his job seems to be arguing with cops about which deaths which of them get to investigate. At one point he plays hardball by telling the cops they have to handle one of the trick-or-treaters because he was technically killed by the door, not the flames. He also has a rivalry with an ATF guy he considers an asshole so whenever he sees him he says stuff like, “You wanna tell me what you’re doin nosin around a car fire in my city?” and “Yeah yeah. Stay away from my burn.” He catches an arsonist by going to a fire, climbing onto a firetruck to scan the crowd, then chasing after a runner (with an exciting shot where he jumps over the camera) and spraying him with a firehose. He brags that he knows every arsonists in the city, as if it’s normal for there to just be dozens of working arsonists who are his professional rivals.

In the McCaffrey family tradition he manages to rescue a child from a fire. He’s on the side of a building and amazingly, somehow, Uncle Assistant Fire Chief Brian drives up exactly in time to see him get blown off the building by a fireball. It would just be such an incredible turn of events if Brian somehow was there to witness the fire deaths of his dad, his brother and his brother’s son. But Sean doesn’t die, he just gets trapped under some rubble and then it’s played as a joke that Brian forces him to have a serious talk airing out their issues before helping him escape. It does follow directly from the first one, though, because we learn that the whole story of their friend Axe being an arsonist was really kept secret, and therefore Stephen has always blamed his uncle for the death of his dad. So Brian reluctantly reveals the truth of what happened in part 1.

Also it’s kind of like Harrison Ford coming back for THE FORCE AWAKENS, because Brian heroically sacrifices himself to save Sean from a fire trap, saying, “I’m not letting another McCaffrey die!” (Then he, a McCaffrey, dies.) His wife and kid are at the funeral, so we know the thing with Jennifer Jason Leigh didn’t work out. It would be cool though if Baldwin played his own son in the tradition of Russell in part 1.

As I mentioned, the other big connection to the first one is the return of Donald Sutherland. Rather than intentionally visiting him, Sean runs into him in the waiting room of a hospital. He’s still incarcerated, but hoards sugar to set off his diabetes so he can go to the hospital. This time it’s more straight up MANHUNTER because he’s the widely respected o.g. arsonist who gets letters and visits from all the up and coming guys in the area, so he actually knows them.

Anyway, this time the conspiracy involves terrorists and missiles. Lower budget, smaller scale, but you gotta go bigger somehow, so you get missiles.

So far no word of a part 3. I would like it to involve either Sean McCaffrey or a previously unmentioned new McCaffrey entering an international firefighter competition.

P.S. This one’s on Netflix, if you’re curious.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 26th, 2021 at 11:36 am and is filed under Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

19 Responses to “Backdraft 2”

  1. They should do Backdraft v. Firestorm: Dawn of Smoke.
    Howie Long sure is up for it.

  2. Not the right thread. But what do you all think of the Amazon takeover of MGM?

    Amazon and Bond. Didn’t expect that.

  3. Franchise Fred

    May 26th, 2021 at 6:32 pm

    As hard as it is to wait a whole nother day for a new 1991 review (Hudson Hawk revisit maybe?), I’m glad you bit the bullet and did this. I admire the balls of Universal to pillage one of their A-list respectable movies for a DTV sequel. It’s obviously not going to come close to the set pieces of the theatrical movie but if you give any fraction of a shit about the McCaffreys it respects their family story.

  4. I admit, that does sound like more fun than expected. Maybe I will check it out at some point.

    Felix: Honestly, I don’t know what the big deal about that is. MGM has been a bankrupt company for a long time and pretty much only exists to distribute 007 movies at this point. Since the Broccolis fought hard for the exclusivity of that franchise, Amazon won’t be able to produce any spin-offs or give any new Bond movies a straight-to-Prime release. So all in all, I don’t know what they spent their money on, but I guess the only difference that we as an audience will see, is that more classic MGM catalogue titles will pop up exclusively on Prime. Or that any future Bond movies will have an Amazon logo pop up before the MGM lion, just like the Sony blip before the Columbia lady.

  5. My fear with the Amazon deal is that they will make some or all of the enormous MGM library unavailable on disc, forcing you to “purchase” it as a file from them, and using their monopolistic powers to precipitate the end of physical media and future of having no choice but to pay Amazon and subscribe to ten different services if you want access to a variety of films. Hopefully that won’t happen, but crushing everyone and everything in their path is their usual m.o.

  6. Yeah, that’s a good point. But there is the lawsuit about people not being allowed to keep the videos that they “bought” on Amazon and iTunes coming up and especially in Europe physical media refuses to die, so I remain optimistic.

  7. My fear with the Amazon deal is that they will make some or all of the enormous MGM library unavailable on disc, forcing you to “purchase” it as a file from them

    I’m not sure exactly what part you’re talking about, but everything pre-1986 was purchased by Ted Turner. Meaning it belongs to Warner Media (now Discovery+ — shit moves fast). So none of the ‘classic’ MGM was included in the deal.

  8. I remember when AMITYVILLE 2005: GEORGE LUTZ KILLS A DOG (Spoilers) came out it was believed (and bemoaned) that it would be the last film to bear the MGM logo.

  9. Guys, I say this with kindness: Just accept that physical media will very soon be all but entirely dead except for a few boutique labels, which will not be enough to make the electronics companies want to keep manufacturing players, and then that really will be the end. That’s the world our corporate overlords want: a world where you now have to pay every single month to access the things you used to own. And they’ll have that world no matter what we do. I love collecting movies more than just about anything else in life but I have come to accept that this hobby of mine is on its last legs. I will miss it to my dying day but I’m not going to waste time raging against the inevitable.

  10. Just accept that physical media will very soon be all but entirely dead

    Uh, sorta… A hard drive is still physical media. I think you mean “disc-based” media.

  11. That’s…not accurate? The hard drive is not the media. It is the media player. The media itself is a file stored on the hard drive, and it is not physical in any way.

  12. A USB memory sti ck cannot play a movie

  13. A USB stick is hardware. Physical media is software. I don’t know what point you’re trying to make here. Going by your logic, Netflix movies are stored on a hard drive somewhere so they technically count as physical media too. You’re basically arguing that physical media doesn’t exist and also everything is physical media.

  14. I mean, even if you buy a digital movie, you’re not receiving a file you get to store on that hard drive anyway. You’re getting a license to stream the movie from one or more specific platforms. If said platform goes bust or they decide to revoke your license for whatever reason, you’re SOL.

    Meanwhile, even after the totalitarian regime du jour shuts off the internet, I can still play my RCA SelectaVision Videodiscs if I want.

    Anyway, Backdraft 2 sounds like one of the more interesting or worthwhile entries into the year-later cash-grab sequel arena.

  15. I don’t know what point you’re trying to make here

    Bill Reed made it. People keep saying “physical media” as if that’s the issue. “Ownership” is the issue.

  16. Jojo – physical media and ownership are the same issue, at least in the U.S., thanks to the first-sale doctrine.


    And even if we could change it so that when you purchase a movie from iTunes you technically own that file instead of license it, it’s not like you could then put it in a store to rent or sell used. So yes, if you have to specifically pick one or the other that’s the issue, it’s the physical media.

  17. From that link:

    However, MP3 songs bought through iTunes Store may be characterized as “sales” because of Apple’s language in its EULA and hence they may be resellable, if other requirements of first sale doctrine are met

    Meaning it’s up to Amazon. I was under the impression they allowed you to stream for one price, or permanently download for a higher price I would imagine they’d just continue in this manner. But the “media” itself is irrelevant. Hell, Amazon could use Circuit City’s self-destructing DIVX DVDs from the ’90s if they wanted to.

  18. I know I just urged everyone to start orienting themselves emotionally to the idea that physical media is on its last legs, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all enjoy it while it’s still around. Which is why I’m reminding y’all that Vinegar Syndrome is doing its yearly Halfway to Back Friday sale, in which damn near everything is half off. I know I’m getting RAW FORCE (the rare WTF gonzo exploitation that keeps it up for the duration) but haven’t decided what else. Suggestions?

    Vinegar Syndrome - Cult Film Preservation & Releasing

    Providing public access to our ever growing archive of rare & forgotten cult film by performing expert-level digital restorations and creating compelling home video packages for both Blu-ray and DVD.

  19. I suspect physical media, as it pertains to films, will become what Vinyl has been to music in recent years. I even suspect it may have to share that title with cinemas.

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