Three American students vacationing in Finland, cross the border into Russia for fun of it. When they are spotted by the Russian soldiers who are shooting to kill, it's not fun anymore. ... See full summary »
Morgan Adams and her slave, William Shaw, are on a quest to recover the three portions of a treasure map. Unfortunately, the final portion is held by her murderous uncle, Dawg. Her crew is skeptical of her leadership abilities, so she must complete her quest before they mutiny against her. This is made yet more difficult by the efforts of the British crown to end her piratical raids. Written by
I was born poor, I had no choice but to become a thief and a liar.
Cutthroat Island is directed by Renny Harlin and written by Robert King and Marc Norman. It stars Geena Davis, Matthew Modine, Frank Langella, Maury Chaykin, Patrick Malahide, Stan Shaw and Rex Linn. Music is scored by John Debney and cinematography by Peter Levy.
A film of many flaws, with a reputation akin to it being the devil of big budget failures, it is, however, a wonderful piece of piratical entertainment if you are prepared to see past the monetary excess. Famously cited as the film that bankrupted Caroloco Pictures, the truth is that Carolco was going under anyway, the studio had filed for bankruptcy before Cutthroat Island had even been released, the box office performance was irrelevant, it wouldn't have made a bit of difference. And while no amount of hard sell marketing could have gotten the film to make back the $98 million spent making it, it received no support from distributor MGM who were in the process of being sold, so finances for marketing were not available.
Harlin's movie has all the pirate movie ingredients crammed in to the plot, though it is a standard plot that sees Davis as female pirate Morgan Adams who leads her charges on a quest to find the ultimate treasure hoard. Problem is that the map is in three parts, each part held by separate people, one of which is Morgan's vicious Uncle Dawg (Langella). The hunt and race is on, and Harlin doesn't pause for breath, he's a kid in a sweet shop armed with wads of cash, but the money, as gargantuan as it is, is there on the screen; well except for the hiring of better actors that is. Two magnificent ships were built for the production and they are magnificent, the costumes, the sets, pyrotechnics, exotic locations (Malta and Thailand standing in for 1668 Jamaica), stunning sound editing and visual thrills, all high on value and all cloaked by a tremendously robust score from Debney.
Action junkies are well served here, with wild horse drawn carriage chases, sword fights aplenty, ships in side by side explosive battle, mucho perilous situations, bodies falling from heights or thrown in the sea, and we even get a comic relief simian! Who, as it turns out, is one of the best actors on show. It's hard to believe that a pirate action film such as this would not be better appreciated had it been released in the last ten years, and I say that not just because of the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, but more so that the blunderbuss popcorn movie has greater support these days. There's a good portion of the movie loving faithful who just want to be entertained, where rapid thrills are a requisite, not well drawn characterisations and thespian class. Judged on those terms then Cutthroat Island is a winner for sure.
Main problems are the clunky script and the three pronged miscast errors in the lead roles. Davis (erm, wife of Harlin) is full of guts, really attacking the material with gusto, but she never convinces, it always feels like a caricature and she's uncomfortable delivering key lines. She would prove herself a fine action actress a year later with The Long Kiss Goodnight (also with Harlin directing), but she's woefully out of place here. With Davis demanding more and more screen time for her character, the role of Shaw began to thin out, which was too much to bear for Michael Douglas who bowed out late in the day. In came Matthew Modine, zero chemistry with Davis, a bland acting style and as far removed from the period setting as you could get. Langella just isn't menacing as the main villain of the piece, a very good actor in the right role, but not here and some of his attempts at nastiness feel like panto season has started early.
Problems for sure, but wade through some of the misconceptions and poisonous press and you will find a film desperately aiming to please you, with much on offer for the pirate movie fan to savour. 7/10
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