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Hard Rain

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Hard Rain

Starring: Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater
Director: Mikael Salomon
Rated: R
RunTime: 96 Minutes
Release Date: January 1998
Genres: Action, Thriller

*Also starring: Randy Quaid, Minnie Driver, Ed Asner, Richard Dysart, Betty White, Mark Rolston, Peter Murnik, Dann Florek

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

"You can't ride in that truck without thinking about it," says one of the principals in Mikael Salomon's suspense thriller, "Hard Rain." The thinking is about money; the truck is armored; the people who ride in that armored truck, carrying three million dollars in cash have three million reasons to think about subjects other than women, food, and sports. Consider how many relatively low-paid security guards, bank tellers, postal employees, agents of the Mint, jewelry-store staff and others handle incredible sums of money and property. In a single, two-hour ride in an armored truck, the driver and guards are transporting more money than they will earn in a lifetime. A lifetime! The wonder of it all is that the overwhelming majority of shipments get through without incident.

But incidents occur aplenty in Salmon's high-concept adventure story based on Graham Yost's screenplay (which has a surprisingly sentimental ending considering that Christopher Young's almost deafening score shakes the rafters of the movie house). Featuring one enticing twist that occurs two-thirds of the way through the 95-minute caper, "Hard Rain" seems unable to make up its mind whether to be a disaster movie or a police drama, so Salomon throws both genres into the picture, even affording us the beginnings of a romance for our admission price. Not much is believable: not the special effects, not the characters. But the action, which is virtually nonstop, overwhelms our rational thought, allowing us to enjoy the show for what it is and to relish yet another fine performance by Randy Quaid--who, of course, gets all the good lines. "Hard Rain" trusts Morgan Freeman, who, despite his role as a robber seems the most mature person in the film, to put out the quality acting; Christian Slater to throb the hearts of the 20-something women in the audience; and Minnie Driver to turn on her cynical charm as the unlikely romantic interest.

Photographed a year or so ago with the title "The Flood," the film's name was changed to underscore the suspense species, which deals with a $3 million heist of an armored truck taking place with the help of a blinding rainstorm. With the breaking of an old dam which harnessed the water of the Midwestern town of Huntingburg, Indiana, the movie at one point seems like a relatively inexpensive remake of "Waterworld" complete with speedboat chases by pirates who, with one exception, look as though they couldn't navigate their way out of a bathtub. Jim (Morgan Freeman), a soft-spoken, mature fellow who probably never stayed with one employer enough time to build up a pension, dreams of a single job which could net him enough money to last him throughout retirement. Rounding up a small team of losers to assist him in the heist, Jim attacks an armored truck, now stalled in deep water unable to move. His associates in crime prove more a hindrance than anything more, as they include one Bible- quoting man who manages to balance a toothpick between his front teeth while he is chasing down the truck's driver and one idiot who talks openly of the planned robbery while seated in a bar. The scoundrels did not count on an obsessively honest security guard, Tom (Christian Slater), who refuses to leave the money behind and swim for his life. Having hid the money in the local cemetery, Tom is mistaken by the sheriff (Randy Quaid) for a looter, is incarcerated, and almost at the point of drowning when he is saved by Karen (Minnie Driver)--paving the way for a flirtation of sorts. Tom and Karen join forces in the adventure of their lives, even running into the town's stereotypical old people, Henry Richard Dysart) and Doreen (Betty White), who likewise mistake them for looters--which allows the two seniors to act like Beverly Hillbillies.

Except for a twist which involves a reversal of alliances, "Hard Rain" is a by-the-numbers caper story with mostly cardboard characters and just a few bon mots. The latter includes a statement by the local science teacher who, having been fired from the town's high school, has joined the robbers with his specialty of assembling explosives. Asked whether this is the sort of thing he taught his classes, he retorts, "You haven't been to a high school lately...they taught ME how to do this."

A fairly formulaic script is saved by the thoughtful performance of the always reliable Morgan Freeman--who at least is not wasted in his role as he was in "Amistad"--and a genuinely comic turn by the trustworthy Randy Quaid. You sit on the edge of your seat wondering whether Quaid, riding the waves caused in part by the bursting of the levee, will get to say, "Where can I get some dam bait for my dam fishing rod?

Copyright 1998 Harvey Karten

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