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Filmed in Gate City, Virginia, and Hawkins County (Church Hill, Surgoinsville and Rogersville) in Northeast Tennessee. Much of the movie was filmed on 440 acres of the Hawkins County land purchased by Universal Studios by the Holston River in Tennessee. It was cleared and turned into working farms in four weeks. The production used a real river regulated for flood scenes with a dam that was slated for repair. The dam was fixed and altered with the help of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. See more »
Watch out, Tom! Beth, get in the truck! Tom! Are you hurt?
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Beautifully photographed, but miscast and poorly-directed...
Mel Gibson is wholly unconvincing as a Southern farmer and family man trying to hold onto his river-ravaged land; even when covered in soot and wearing overalls, everything about the young, wiry Gibson breathes prosperity. Corporate shady Scott Glenn (in a sleepwalking performance) wants Gibson and wife Sissy Spacek off their land in order to build a dam and flood the valley (it'll mean more jobs), but Gibson refuses to sell out. Sub-plot with Mel taking factory work (after crossing a picket line) is presumably meant to give us a more complete portrait of the man, but it just makes the character seem hard-headed. Upon opening with a lovely series of nature shots courtesy cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, director Mark Rydell immediately loses his footing with a sequence of contrived family action in a rainstorm (underlined by an awful John Williams score to heighten the drama, which has no pay-off). It's all downhill from there, with petulant, milky-skinned Gibson failing to match up with homespun Spacek, and two perky kids who keep playing to the camera. "The River" was released the same year as "Places in the Heart" and "Country", and was easily the weakest 'farm movie' in the lot. Glossy, superficial, and dull. *1/2 from ****
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