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.