Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Film Review: HARD RAIN (1998, Mikael Salomon)

Stars: 3.9 of 5.
Running Time: 97 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Christian Slater, Morgan Freeman, Randy Quaid, Minnie Driver, Betty White, Ed Asner, Richard Dysart (PALE RIDER, Dr. Copper in THE THING), Ricky Harris (HEAT), Jay Patterson (TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES), music by Christopher Young (THE FLY II, DRAG ME TO HELL).
Tag-lines: "In the worst storm in living memory, one guard stands between five men and three million dollars."
Best one-liner: "For twenty years, I've been eatin' shit; breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So now I'm changing the menu. From here on, everything I eat is gonna be shit-free."
Worst Dialogue: "What did you hit me with, anyway? "–It was a crucifix. What? It was all I could find." "–Great, I'm gonna have people from all around the world come to see the impression of Jesus on my forehead."

I'm gonna give it to you straight: whether or not you like this will be very dependent on your tolerance for late 90's natural disaster movies and the writing of Graham Yost (SPEED, BROKEN ARROW, HERMAN'S HEAD). Once you get past that, it's basically Bruckheimer-lite. But it's Bruckheimer-lite infused with The Slater Factor, so we end up doin' a little better than OK.

Before I delve into the good, however, I gotta tell you: there are some things in this movie that will piss you off. There is a whole lot of quasi-witty banter and jokin' around in hypothermic, near-drowning situations. Characters show up outta nowhere for rescues that will strain and then shatter even the most seasoned action fan's suspension of disbelief. And Minnie Driver is just the worst.

She's so bad that "Man, I wish Samantha Mathis was in this" gives way to "I pine for Sandra Bullock in SPEED 2." But wait! Stop your retching. There's a lotta good stuff, too. Randy Quaid, so frequently misused, comes into his own once more as a fed-up Sheriff with electrifying shades of Terry O'Quinn.

Ed Asner and Betty White provide pathos and comic relief, respectively. Morgan Freeman's got a cowboy hat, an earring, and a beleaguered bad*ss attitude (the impetus for his casting in NURSE BETTY). Danish cinematographer turned director Mikael Saloman (who shot THE ABYSS, BACKDRAFT) brings a lot to the film's gimmick, and the film's gimmick is lots o' water. The sheer volume of real- not CGI- water pouring down on our heroes is actually breathtaking. They must slosh, swim, and float their way toward and away from a variety of creative, genuinely suspenseful situations made all the more visceral by the deluge of REAL water. And The Slater Factor, though a tad damp and clammy, shines through.

Even when they're a little soggy, the eyebrows still work.

We get a little eyebrow and a couple one-liners ("Low tide, sailor!"). And the whole thing ends on a freeze frame of Slater being a smartass. I'm not sure how ya did it, movie, but here's (nearly) four stars.

-Sean Gill


Catalyst said...

I forgot all about this little flick. It was only missing one thing common for the time... Tommy Lee Jones

Sean Gill said...

Completely. TLJ was as at home in the lovably mediocre 90's action flick as Donald Pleasence was in a lovably mediocre 80's Horror and/or Cold War flick.

Space Cadet said...

Okay, so, you’re probably wondering why I’m commenting on a review from, like, three years ago or something. I was bored. I was surfing you’re archive. I noticed a recurring theme on all things Christian Slater – what you call “The Slater Factor”. I have some thoughts concerning said factor and I didn’t wanna kink style by plaguing your Ravenesque review for Two Evil Eyes (impressive, by the way) with an unrelated topic, nor do I feel like waiting for you to post the next movie involving Christian Slater. So I flipped a coin between this and Kuffs. Anyways, to make this short, I beg of you to write up a review for Twisted …the unsung Christian Slater movie. The unsung movie, period.

Oh and you should also review Dr. Detroit. Because someone has to.

Sean Gill said...

Space Cadet,

I must admit with great shame, that even as a gigundous Slater fan, I had not even heard of TWISTED. It looks like it never made it to DVD, so I believe I'll have to put it on the list next time I go trolling for used VHSs!

Sean Gill said...

Oh, and as for DOCTOR DETROIT...it's always been a film that I'll reach for on the shelf, but then shy away at the last moment, fearing a rehash of my near-traumatic LEONARD PART 6 and HOWARD THE DUCK style experiences. But if the people demand it...