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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 MrBrown
2½ stars out of 4

In an apparent response to the lukewarm reaction to Hollywood's last two disaster epics, the dueling volcano movies Dante's Peak and Volcano, the makers of Hard Rain (formerly known as The Flood) have tweaked the usual disaster formula a bit, melding traditional disaster elements with more slam-bang action. While the resulting film is never boring and entertaining on a superficial level, in the end it remains an uneven mix of both worlds.

Writer Graham Yost, best known for his script for Speed, fashions Hard Rain with a similarly thin storyline. A group of thieves, led by a shady character known only as Jim (Morgan Freeman) attempt to rob an armored car carrying $3 million. Two things stand in their way--biggest of all, Mother Nature, which has flooded the town of Huntingsburg, Indiana with the mother of all downpours; and Tom (Christian Slater), the armored car's driver, who manages to hide the cash before anyone can take it. With the help of the town sheriff (Randy Quaid) and church artist Karen (Minnie Driver), Tom aims to protect the carefully hidden fortune while braving the elements.

Speed was able to overcome its simple plot--madman extorts money from the city with a bomb on a bus--with crack direction by Jan DeBont and the personalities created by stars Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, and, most notably, Sandra Bullock. Hard Rain's shortcomings do not lie with director Mikael Salomon, a former cinematographer. Salomon stages the gunfights and boat chases with some skill (though no one but John Woo should even attempt to pull off a church shootout), and uses the waterlogged setting to create some striking shots. He also has a sure hand with the water effects, which give the gushing torrents of water an appropriate air of menace. One of the main shortcomings, however, lie with the characters, who, as in too many disaster films, are poorly defined and/or uninteresting. Tom is a cardboard do-gooder, and despite the best efforts of the always-engaging Driver, Karen is little more than a token action film female. A couple of late-inning twists muddy the personalities of the sheriff and especially Jim; by film's end I was not exactly sure what the audience is supposed to make of him.

What causes the most damage to Hard Rain is the inclusion of cheesy disaster movie conventions. It would have been fine if the flood were used as a backdrop to the action storyline, the water serving as an ominous threat looming over the events. But in keeping with a typical disaster film's varied "pastiche" of characters, he shoehorns in a grating, unhappily married old couple (Richard Dysart and Betty White), who linger in the background and become briefly involved in the action before virtually (and mercifully) disappearing during the final act. We also get served up one of those interminable melodramatic, would-be heart-tugging death scenes, this one occurring after a character gets electrocuted.

After all is said and done, Hard Rain is a somewhat diverting popcorn flick that holds one's interest for its fairly brief running time. It's just that I cannot help but think that maybe the film would have been better off being either a disaster film _or_ an action film instead of the uneven blend that plays out onscreen.

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