Saturday, September 5, 2015

Hard Rain

3/4

Starring: Christian Slater, Morgan Freeman, Minnie Driver, Randy Quaid, Ed Asner, Peter Murnik, Betty White, Richard Dysart

Rated R for Violence

The 90's were populated by disaster movies...usually related to weather.  Let's see, you've got volcanoes ("Dante's Peak," "Volcano"), tornadoes ("Twister") and hurricanes ("The Perfect Storm," although I'm not sure that counts).  It only makes sense to add a flood-disaster movie into the mix.

Actually, the flood only the setting.  The real story is focused on a stash of $3 million dollars and the various lowlifes who are trying to get it.  Armored truck drivers Tom (Slater) and Charlie (Asner) are transporting the cash (grand total is roughly $3 million) from local banks out of the flood zone, when they get stuck in a dip in the road.  That's when they run into Jim (Freeman), a thief looking for his "retirement fund" and his gang of misfits.  Despite only wanting the money, gunfire ensues and Charlie is killed.  Tom takes the money and runs (apologies to The Steve Miller Band) eventually ending up in the care of the local Sheriff (Quaid).  He's helpful until he finds out about the money.  Also involved is Karen (Driver), a local girl who restores stained glass windows, and an elderly couple played by Betty White and Richard Dysart who won't leave their home until they've "set the traps."

Expecting anything groundbreaking or truly sensational will lead to disappointment.  It is what it is, and for an action movie set in a flood, it's a pretty good time.  The special effects are always convincing, there's some great stuntwork, and some nice performances to top it off.

In the right role, Christian Slater can be effective.  As a colorful sidekick or a witty psycho ("Very Bad Things"), Slater does well.  As an action hero, he lacks charisma and is too big of a smart-ass to be truly likable.  But he's okay.  Morgan Freeman is Morgan Freeman; hand him the check and don't ask questions.  This certainly isn't his best performance, but he's always welcome on screen.  Minnie Driver, the talented British actress that she is, is lovely as ever.  And no one plays a psycho quite like Randy Quaid; it's interesting who with a few tweaks in his expressions and tone of voice, he can go from Cousin Eddie to a deranged madman.  Betty White and Richard Dysart are hilarious as the elderly couple.  White carries the scenes as the little dynamo obsessed with home security and belittling her benevolent husband, but it's Dysart who has the best line.  Special mention has to go to Peter Murnik, who plays Phil.  As the local cop who has long held a torch for Karen, he's adorable.

The film was directed by Danish cinematographer turned director Mikael Salomon; it was his second film after "A Far Off Place" starring Reece Witherspoon.  As can be expected, Salomon has a flair for atmosphere and special effects; the film consistently looks great.  The and staging of the action scenes is enough to raise the adrenaline, but not stand out.  According to iMDb, John Woo was in consideration to direct this film.  What a sight to behold that would have been!  Still, Salomon has nothing to be ashamed of.

Like I said.  "Hard Rain" isn't a classic by any stretch of the imagination.  It's not even an especially great action movie; the gunfights are generic and there's too much slo-mo (although it's at least not overly ostentatious).  But for those of you who are looking for a loud and dumb action movie, this is worth a watch.

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