Backdraft has some of the most impressive fire scenes ever shot and some daring stunt work (three of the leads, Kurt Russell, Scott Glenn and William Baldwin, are actually billed as stuntmen), but unfortunately it's wrapped up in a trite two-brothers-at-each-other's-throats plot that keeps it from being anything more than a high-priced soap opera with burning buildings. And, it has to be said, it looks a lot less impressive on the small screen than it did on the big one. Despite the ostensibly impressive ensemble cast, some of the supporting performances are weak, with Jennifer Jason Leigh proving big time that she really can't play `normal' while Donald Sutherland's Hannibal Firelighter is too Looney Tunes to convince even in his brief screen time, while Baldwin is a considerably less compelling leading man than Russell but gets the lion's share of the screen time anyway. The result is a modestly entertaining but entirely predictable studio picture that plays everything but the conflagrations safe.
The original UK DVD was disappointingly bare-bones, but the Blu-ray release includes all the extras from the US two-disc DVD special edition. While many of the plethora of deleted scenes are just brief trims or purely redundant, it seems that a lot of the murder mystery plot and much of Robert De Niro's lazy turn as an arson investigator also hit the cutting room floor, alongside a couple of good fraternal confrontations, but there's little to imply that a better film was left on the cutting room floor. There's a good selection of featurettes as well to make up for the original bare-bones release, though it's disappointing that the two good theatrical trailers aren't included in the set. Picture quality on the Blu-ray is certainly an improvement over the DVD without the kind of excessive DNR problems that some early Universal Blu-ray titles like Tremors were notorious for.