1998, R, 98 min. Directed by Mikael Saloman. Starring Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater, Randy Quaid, Minnie Driver, Betty White, Edward Asner, Richard Dysart.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 16, 1998
I think the big question on everybody's mind is: “Will they let Christian Slater out of the slammer to attend the premiere?” It's doubtful, and come to think of it, some of the scenes here -- Slater in a jail cell, Slater being pursued by angry cops -- probably strike a little too close to home anyway. To top it all off, the film is utterly forgettable, the kind of cheesy action-flick pabulum that sounds like a great idea during the pitch meeting, but plays like a soggy slice of Wonder Bread with a dead rat garnish once it hits the local multiplex. Slater plays Tom, an armored-car driver who, along with his crotchety uncle Charlie (Asner), is waylaid by a band of thieves (led by an out-of-place Freeman) eager to get their hands on the $3 million the pair are delivering. To add insult to injury, all this is occurring during a torrential flood. When Charlie is shot during the ensuing melee, Tom takes the money, hides it in a nearby cemetery, and promptly gets himself arrested by the local sheriff (Quaid), who thinks that Tom made off with the cash. There's also Minnie Driver as local girl (and Tom's love interest) Karen, and a handful of assorted other characters, but the basic crux here is Tom's battle between Freeman's gang and Quaid's money-hungry sheriff. And, of course, all that water. Director Saloman is no stranger to the wet stuff, having lensed James Cameron's The Abyss, but this misplaced summer blockbuster is so tired and formulaic that not even his considerable directing and cinematography skills can drag it above the shoreline. Slater, who lost it for me around the time of 1992's insipid Kuffs, is a cardboard cutout of an action star, reduced to simple action-reaction shots and far too much tearing about on a motorboat down the flooded small-town streets. Likewise Freeman, who appears to be taking some time off from his acting in order to get in shape by swimming a few laps, and Driver, well, I suspect she's just here for scenery. Hard Rain has been languishing on the shelf for some time, actually -- originally much more wittily titled The Flood, it's hopefully the final nail in the recent action-adventure-disaster tsunami that began (again -- these things are cyclical, like locusts) with last year's spate of volcano flicks and should end right after the entire planet is obliterated in either one of the upcoming comet films: Armageddon or Deep Impact. “Hopefully” is the key word here, since the grand master of human cinematic travail, Irwin Allen, is no longer with us, and things are getting a little seedy, disaster-wise.