Hard Rain Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1998

This job stinks. Putting your ass on the line for somebody else's money.

I really wanted to like this movie.

"Hard Rain", an $80 million mating of the disaster and heist genres, was originally christened with the less-than-spine tingling title "The Flood" and slated for release in the early summer of 1997. However, a crowded summer market and the waning popularity of disaster pics forced a change in both the release date and the marketing strategy.

The high-concept premise of 'armored car heist during a flood' is certainly enticing. The town of Huntington, Indiana is in danger of flooding from a raging storm, and the aging dam upstream is about to give way to the rising water level. Tom (Christian Slater, who also serves as co-producer) is riding shotgun with his uncle Charlie (Ed Asner) as they pick up money from banks in the flood-threatened areas. While on their way out of town, the truck gets stuck on a flooded roadway, and the call for help is answered by a mish-mash of movie-cliché riffraff, out to steal the $3 million in the back of the truck. The would-be thieves, led by the stern and seasoned Jim (Morgan Freeman, last seen in "Amistad"), include a science-teacher-led-astray, a bible-quoting brother from the 'hood, and a talkative ignoramus. After Charlie is shot and killed by Jim's men, Tom takes the money and runs, hiding it in a local cemetery.

While being pursued by Jim's men, Tom takes shelter in a local church, and is promptly knocked unconscious by Karen (Minnie Driver of "Grosse Pointe Blank" and "Good Will Hunting"), a sassy woman who has ignored the evacuation order to save the church from water damage. When Tom wakes up, he finds himself in jail, suspected by the seedy local Sheriff (Randy Quaid, the crop duster abducted by aliens in "Independence Day") of looting. Meanwhile, Jim and his crew are prowling the flooded streets of Huntington, in search of the only one who knows where the $3 million dollars is: Tom. Before the night is over, tables are going to be turned, code-bound thieves will square off against shady lawmen, loyalties will be gravely tested, startling revelations are going to be made, and a lot of people are going to wind up dead.

The script, penned by Graham Yost ("Speed", "Broken Arrow"), is rife with logical gaps and incredulous reversals, the most notable being Jim's men going to all the trouble of risking life and limb in a soon-to-be-flooded town for a mere $3 million pay-off (which will be divided four ways). Characterizations are also weak, especially for Jim, Tom, and the Sheriff, making the about-faces in the second act seem contrived, lacking any sort of emotional intensity. The messy script also suffers under the lethargic direction of Mikael Salomon, whose previous experience included Oscar-nominated visual effects on "Backdraft" and cinematography on "The Abyss". The pacing is laggard, making the already tedious dialogue and plotting even more pointed. The action sequences are less-than-thrilling, and the few shining moments that there are in this movie suffer from a been-there-done-that sentiment resulting from "Titanic" beating it to the theaters, especially two sequences with Tom and Karen each being locked up or handcuffed with the water rising around them. Perhaps the only marvel of the movie is the technically-adept special effects. Unlike other competitive offerings, Salomon bucked the trend of computer-generated imaging by building a large set for the town of Huntington in an airplane hangar and then actually flooding it. Though it was an exhausting shoot for the crew, with long days being spent clobbered by thousands of gallons of water, the make-believe flood is quite impressive on the screen.

The crew hates me because they think I slandered them by saying everyone's pissing. Everyone is not pissing. There are four people who I know peed in the tank.
			- Minnie Driver, Cinescape interview

Though the trailers make "Hard Rain" look like an exciting movie full of visceral thrills and a premise rich with dramatic potential, this waterlogged heist/disaster movie is saddled with a far-fetched narrative, slow pacing, uninspired dialogue, and the mercurial motivations of the characters. It just doesn't float my boat.

For twenty years I've been eating shit... breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Well today, I'm changing the menu. From now on, everything I eat will be shit-free!

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