3 stars may be a bit harsh for a movie with one of the most unsettling scenes I've seen, but the problem with the film is that it never becomes a whole. There's a conflict of tone that's never successfully resolved--director John Herzfeld wants to make a dark comedy full of satire aimed at Jerry Springer, Geraldo Rivera and the like; but he also wants to make a grisly, gritty action film filled with blood, murder, fire, and tragedy. These two aspects rub against one another uncomfortably, and although life may indeed be like that, the juxtaposition doesn't work well in this bit of art.
The dichotomy plagues the work further: there is terrific imagery, some great acting, some terrific writing; there's also lots of very typical Hollywood run-of-the-mill work. De Niro, as one of the two protagonists, is superb until the writers feel it necessarly to give him a girlfriend. The other protagonist, played by Edward Burns, is the stereotypical young hothead, who in spite of being an ace fire inspector, can't control himself around other people. I must admit that the two villains are both terrific, in terms of both writing and acting; but a bit of clowning at the end really destroyed the effect of the final scene for me.
If you do decide to see the movie--and in spite of my negative comments, the positive aspects of the film (especially the scene with De Niro and the two villians) make it worth viewing, be sure to stay tuned after the credits begin--Kelsey Grammer has a final bit that begins a minute or so into the credits.