Being a fireman is just like belonging to a football team, or so screenwriter Gregory Widen would have us believe. 'You dropped the ball, you split the team up,' says scornful firefighter Stephen McCaffrey (Russell) to his rookie brother (Baldwin). As though sibling rivalry was not enough, Widen (an ex-firefighter) lumbers the plot with unnecessary complications and obvious confrontations: an investigator (De Niro) is on the trail of a skilful arsonist, the squabbling brothers have troubled romances. Ron Howard creates some promo-style sequences that would look more at home in a Gillette advert, but he does a superb job with the ultra-realistic effects. The fire sequences are stunning, and the build-up to them, complete with blaring sirens and bellowed conversations, has an aggressive immediacy.