Hard Rain (1998)
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The sodden atmosphere of this film is unique and impressive, as is the set design. The film is technically very cool, clever too and working with so much water must've been hell for the crew. The performances are all well rounded enough in Hard Rain but the script lacks the spark to truly make this great or memorable. Sure there are some exciting moments, but what action film doesn't have some excitement? With such a unique setting, I'm surprised that there just wasn't more of a good thing. Overall, I enjoyed it. This film is good action flick. Nothing more, nothing less.
Christian Slater did a "Michael J. Fox" (The Concierge/Secret of My Success) by copycatting his own performance in "Broken Arrow" (same screenplay writer...).
The ending is too abrupt, but, overall, I did enjoy the movie all the same. For action fans only...
"Hard Rain" is a combination of disaster genre with crime and action. Despite the negative reviews, the action scenes are spectacular, the cast is excellent and the plot has a great twist based on the ancient proverb "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". My vote is six.
Title (Brazil): "Tempestade" ("Storm")
When the small town of Huntingburg, Indiana is hit by a torrential rainstorm and the floodwater starts to rise at an alarming speed, armoured truck drivers Tom (Christian Slater) and his Uncle Charlie (Edward Asner) are instructed to collect all the cash held at the town's banks as a matter of urgency. After completing their collections and starting to make their way back out of town, the truck gets stuck in a flooded section of road and Charlie makes a radio call to inform the National Guard. Almost immediately, they get ambushed by a gang of four men, one of whom shoots and kills Charlie. Tom then manages to escape with the bags of money which he subsequently hides in a cemetery.
The gang, which is led by Jim (Morgan Freeman), pursues Tom until he gives them the slip and hides out in a local church. There, he gets knocked unconscious by a woman named Karen (Minnie Driver) who, after having mistaken him for a looter, takes him to the sheriff's office. Sheriff Mike Collins (Randy Quaid) believes Tom's account of what had happened, but as a precaution, locks him up in a cell until his story can be checked out. The sheriff and his deputies continue to try to ensure that all the townsfolk are evacuated safely but Karen escapes from the deputy who'd been instructed to escort her away from danger and instead goes back to the church (which she'd been restoring), to fill the pumps.
Soon the huge dam that overlooks Huntingburg is no longer able to fully retain all its water and Karen rescues Tom from drowning in his cell in the unattended sheriff's office. The two of them then team up to try and get away from the extreme danger they're in from the flood and Jim's gang and the sheriff (who's bitter about not being re-elected to his post in the recent election) decide to steal the $3 million and kill anyone who gets in their way.
This movie's special effects, cinematography and well-directed action sequences are all highly impressive and the acting performances are also good. The sheer pace of the action ensures that the interest-level remains high throughout and there are also some humorous moments to enjoy. "Hard Rain" isn't the kind of movie that would stand up well to repeat viewings but is nevertheless, full of action that's exciting and fun to watch.
Considering that the main appeal of the movie is the water-based locations, action and stunts, the film-makers have done quite a good job in providing a plot with a number of twists, and characters who are more than cardboard cut-outs. OK, so not much more, admittedly, but there is still an element of depth to them (the water in town is deeper)(sorry).
But the semi-aquatic realm in which the movie is set is flawlessly realised. The main track through town (along which boats race), and the water-filled interiors of the school, the jail, a church, and assorted houses - all are absolutely convincing, as is the action which takes place in them.
This is a very enjoyable movie with a most unusual premise.
I don't know if it's intentional or not, but there is a Gothic feeling here that enhances everything. It's the night, the town is surrounded by forest, and a lot of action happens on the cemetery and the church. And if it's an action / thriller movie, actually, some shoots reminds me of the best horror movies.
Then, i found all the characters very attractive: you either care for them or despise them at once. And, they aren't one-sided characters because along the movie, their polarity changes: good guys become bad, and bad guys become good. Thus, it is very interesting to see that and the cast does have mention because they make that happen. As a fan of Minnie, i found that she has truly something because she is 100% believable in this action / comedy part whereas other actress would have failed.
I never heard of the director before but he knows how to deliver great sequences: the opening credits give the mood for the entire movie and you will find all the threats from flooding.
In conclusion, this upside down "Abyss" is an excellent tale and if you can find it, dive in it !
"Hard Rain" does have an excellent cast and some impressive set designs and effects. But it is so horribly written and cliché ridden it's distressing to see such a cast and budget wasted! When this film came out, Norm McDonald of SNL during the "Weekend Update" announced: "Christian Slater was temporarily released from prison so he could attend the premiere of his new film, "Hard Rain". After the first ten minutes, he was escorted back to jail." (!) In fairness, "Hard Rain" isn't THAT bad, but close enough.
Final rating: 5/10 A standard movie. You can watch it once, but then move on with your life."
(Trivia: The trailer for this film was released when "Titanic" first came out in December/January of 1997/1998. It was good, but it didn't help this film at the box office.)
If I were to imagine the perfect film, the one that would be at the top of the `most important' lists, one quality it is likely to have is some new cinematic grammar for space using water.
The thing that makes film unique is the way it can take your mind to unfamiliar worlds. This is through the eye, and for the result to qualify as a world, it has to have some architectural substance. Perhaps since `Abyss,' the film world has been aware of the challenge and promise that water presents. We've seen some glimpses of the possibilities: the underwater world of `In Dreams,' and the maze of `Alien Resurrection.' `Titanic's' success in my mind was largely because Cameron grazed the possibilities.
At some point, someone will create a visual grammar for this, as Welles did for static architecture, and Luhrmann did for the dynamic case. And then we will be a wholly different people, with somewhat expanded conceptual reasoning ability. But until then, we have the attempts.
`Hard Rain' shoots high. It was conceived with an eye toward finding a next generation formula and failed because of a simple lack of adventure. Too bad, because the safe approach doomed the picture. Better to have risked more.
What is your guess about what would be the breakthough? My guess is that some narrative device will give the vocabulary a hook, like `noir' did for architectural films. It probably will be in the thriller category, because that mode can afford the talent and computer help that will be required. It will probably focus a lot on foam at the edges and have a two-dimensional quality, like Chinese paintings. It will probably have subliminal color, like the bazillions of microscopic colors that make up the white of snow (or the colors in 12th century cathedral glass).
It will probably have a fluid, non-human camera derived from the more adventuresome ideas of de Palma, possibly with perceptual frame bleeds like `In the Mood for Love.' The editing will be a whole new deal, mostly rhythmic with some splashes in the face. Darks and lights will alternate in unfamiliar ways. Lenses will extend into the environment. A new style of acting will emerge, more capricious and dynamically focused.
And then someone will make this film right, or something like it. And we'll be as shocked in comparison as we are now with Sean Penn compared to John Wayne.
A rookie armored car guard, Tom (Christian Slater), has resigned from his construction job to work with his Uncle Charlie (Ed Asner of TV's "Lou Grant"). As the film unfolds, Tom and Charlie are hauling about $3-million in cold, hard cash from a Midwestern bank that flood waters are about submerge. As they try to leave town, they get stuck, and the flood rises over their ankles in the cab. Charlie radios the National Guard, and they both sit on the loot.
About that time, a band of thieves led by Jim (Morgan Freeman) show up. One of the villains, Kenny (Michael Goorjian) cuts loose, and they shoot it out. The scene is effective as well as eerie, with creepy spotlights blazing white-hot holes in the night skies. Goorjian gives a terrific performance as an idiot henchman who Jim has brought along because Jim promised his father he'd care of Kenny. Anyway, Charlie dies from a bullet wound, but Tom escapes. Resourceful guy that he is, Tom drags off the bags of the loot. The villains are always several steps behind the heroes and heroines in "Hard Rain" in hot (or as the case is 'wet') pursuit.
Meanwhile, the sheriff (Randy Quaid) has been evacuating the flooded town. It seems that he is serving out his last two weeks. Everybody believes the mayor sabotaged his re-election bid, because the sheriff had been in office too long, twenty years too long. The sheriff tries to persuade an elderly couple, Henry (Richard Dysart) and Doreen (Betty White), to clear out of town before they drown. They're determined to safeguard their store, so they are laying out bear traps when the sheriff intervenes. Dysart and White dredge up the only humor in the film as an incredibly grumpy couple. The only time you hear the "f--k" word in "Hard Rain" is as Henry reprimands Doreen for her outrageously bitchy behavior. TV's "Golden Girl" White steals every scene as the suspicious, unrelenting spouse.
"Hard Rain" broadly resembles "Broken Arrow." Substitute the stealth jet with an armored car along with John Travolta's thief of nukes with Uncle Charlie's scheme to steal the loot, and you have a clever but contrived variation. Add to the formula a heroine along the lines of the Samantha Mathis park ranger character, and you get Minnie Driver. She's cast as an expert who restores stained glass church windows. She is so committed to preserving her stain-glass handiwork that she is willing to risk death by drowning.
Basically, "Hard Rain" feels like a cold shower. Yost's uneven script appears to be the chief culprit. He swamps it with too many unlikely situations and some characters get way out of line. The concept of staging a heist during a devastating deluge must have seemed a sure-fire idea when the producers pitched the premise. Indeed, the Yost script opens with an interesting predicament. Before "Hard Rain" lets up, you'll feel tired of wading through yet another undistinguished semi-disaster/semi-crime caper flick. Altogether, "Hard Rain" showers its audiences with a wishy washy saga, suspicious characters, and a muddled sense of morality that rivals the Wesley Snipes & Woody Harrelson opus "Money Train."
The best parts of "Hard Rain" are the action scenes. When guns are fired, the cameras shudder to heighten the violence. The gunshots burst in your ears like mortar shells. The jet-ski scene in the high school is fun. Obviously, the filmmakers are playing on the secret desire some moviegoers may harbor about a perverse wish to trash the halls of their high school. The sight of power boats crashing through stained glass windows and shattering them is rather exciting, too.
"Hard Rain" bristles with a motley crew of characters. Nobody seems to represent who they really are. Yost exploits the natural disaster to bring out either the good or the bad in everybody. Randy Quaid's sheriff exemplifies this as a veteran lawman that crosses over the line after two decades of wearing a badge. Morgan Freeman presents even a better example. He gives a deep, soulful performance, too, in a role he is clearly above in what he brings to what it lacks. Freeman's Jim is an honorable thief. He neither triggered the accidental shoot-out that cost Uncle Charlie his life nor did he abandon the cretinous Kenny whose welfare he had been entrusted, but to say more would ruin the resolution.
Former photographer Michael Salomon keeps the pace trim with several vigorous, full-throttled, hell-bent action sequences. Nevertheless, he cannot rinse a script soaked with clichés. Initially, "Hard Rain" qualifies as a modern day version of Sergio Leone's classic Spaghetti western "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly." Tom hides the loot in a cemetery before Karen clobbers him and lands him in jail. The sheriff grows greedy and decides to split the $3-million booty among his deputies while Jim pursues Tom. Moreover, Jim and Tom form an uneasy alliance against the lawmen when it's clear the sheriff has decided that they must die.
If anybody in "Hard Rain" deserves kudos, production designer J. Michael Riva certainly does. Riva and his associates used a large, Palmdale, California, aircraft hanger where B-1 bombers were assembled to photograph the action.
"Hard Rain" casting was interesting. Morgan Freeman plays a hard criminal who is after all the money that two security guards are taking to a safe place because the imminent danger of the raising water caused by the pounding rain and the water reserves of the town. Christian Slater proves to be a good choice for the guard who knows how to deal with the bandits and the crooked police in town who wants to steal the money. Randy Quaid is seen as the chief of police, a man who has a different idea to get his hands on the three million dollars that are hidden. Minnie Driver, Ed Asner, Dann Florek, and especially Betty White and Richard Dysart, who appear as an older couple, the Sears, who have dealt with flooding in the town before, are fine in their supporting roles.
This is a film for action movie fans, who will enjoy director Salomon's take on the story.
There is an interesting paradox about Hard Rain, in that it is peppered with capable and even great actors (as in the case of Morgan Freeman), but it still comes off as contrived and unreal. Christian Slater is not the most beloved actor in the world, but I have an immutable liking for him, probably just because he was part of the brilliant Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Minnie Driver has delivered some excellent performances in some excellent movies, although none that really struck my interest. Morgan Freeman is undoubtedly one of the greatest actors working today, which is why it's strange that even his enormous presence wasn't able to generate more interest in this movie. And Randy Quaid, while one of my personal favorite comedic actors (mostly due to his absolute hilarity is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation), was badly miscast from the beginning.
What you have in Hard Rain is a flooded town due to excessive rain and an old and weak dam that periodically has to release more and more water to avoid overflowing, each time flooding the town more and more. The movie starts off with the town being evacuated (which is shown in a total of two or three cars led down a flooded street) and a couple of armored car drivers picking up all of the money from the town bank. It's interesting to consider what made director Mikael Salomon feel it necessary to present this routine pickup as a robbery (even going so far as to have the bank manager nervously throwing stacks of money into a bag and saying he's going as fast as he can) and then turn right around and show that it's a perfectly normal event. What you have here in the first few minutes of the movie is a scene that builds false suspense and then cops out, much like the rest of the movie. We're already being set up for disaster, and it has nothing to do with a flood.
The movie is the presentation of a flooded and therefore deserted town and a subsequent robbery attempt, with all of the logical inconsistencies that that might imply. The struggle between the good guys and the bad guys goes on for way too long, for one thing. It's just too much to ask us to believe that no one is coming to help just because the guy up on the dam is not calling for help and Charlie turned out to be in on it from the beginning. It's like the movie takes place in its own little world, completely cut off from the rest of the world because the story finds that necessary. Sort of like the RoboCop movies, to some extent.
On the other hand, there is an undeniable element of entertainment that comes along with the movie, despite its almost complete lack of any true possession of realism. It's a movie that is fun to watch but becomes bad the more you think about it, and I can tell this mostly because as I write this review, my opinion of the film steadily grows lower and lower. It's really sad that the movie had so many good actors in it but still fell flat. There are, of course, a few stock characters, such as the bad guy's idiot sidekick and the nervous old man and his wife (an interaction between whom comes off as one of the most amusing scenes in the film), and this may be the root of the film's downfall. Even the good actors and the great actor in the film were all playing one-dimensional characters.
Morgan Freeman was the typical aging thief who only wanted to steal enough money to escape all of this nonsense, Randy Quaid delivers a terribly unfitting performance as the frustrated sheriff who goes bad after losing reelection, Christian Slater is the lone hero who tries to save the day, and Minnie Driver is the obligatory love interest. Nothing very exciting here, not even when Jim, Morgan Freeman's character, winds up on Tom's (Christian Slater) side near the end is there enough interest generated in the plot to make up for its routine presentation, the manufactured sets, and the tedious dialogue.
I worked at a video store in Fresno, California when this movie was released, and I remember that it was enormously popular during the first few weeks that it was released, just like Sphere. It was clearly one of the more highly anticipated films of 1998, which was probably why it was so popular when it was released on video, but this also reflects the quality of the film. It is an entertaining film to some extent, but also like Sphere, is goes steadily downhill after a relatively interesting introduction, and the more you think about the movie itself, the less impressive it becomes.
HARD RAIN does not quite surface even with a promising concept. The most evincing frailty with HARD RAIN is that this film could have been a better movie. The basis for this movie is terrific, but the product of this film, even with all the apparently "right" ingredients concocted is not on the money. For one, the performances in HARD RAIN were unbelievable. Morgan Freeman lacked both a cunning and sinister personality as the antagonist. Christian Slater is alright as the protagonist for this water logged tale, but many of the decisions he makes seem far fetched. His failed wisecracks are also out of place! Randy Quaid's mood swings as the psychotic Sheriff were just as unpredictable as the film's abrupt turn of events. Minnie Driver had a memorable role as a tough, yet sweet-natured partner for Slater. To be fair, the performances were not dynamic, but passable. The special effects though, of course steal the show!
The theme about greediness and obsession for the $3 million dollars is an interesting subtext in HARD RAIN. By the climax of this movie, when everybody involved in the shoot-out becomes ravenous for the elusive money, the dilemma submerges into deep water. HARD RAIN just wanted to show that money fuels inhibitions and corrupts otherwise intrinsically good people into selfish, cruel savages. Even the heroes can in turn succumb to their dark desires...
As a whole, HARD RAIN had potential and should have done better. The special effects are incredible, yet some of the cliffhangers in this film appear to be both implausible and unconvincing. The characters in this film, though sympathetic, are improbable and sometimes inept in their proper roles.
HARD RAIN was not rubbish, but too many fallacies hurt an almost spectacular water show. A fun film to watch, perhaps. Briskly directed, definitely. Entertaining and visually unforgettable, yes. Enjoyable with magnificently stylized choreography, maybe. Worthwhile, innovative and prepossessing...no. Sorry, try again.
RATING: ** out of ****.
What's even more disgusting is Bette White in here. Yes, the "Golden Girl" and "Mary Tyler Moore Show" favorite, talks like a scumbag in here, too. It just shows you these classic-era actors are no morally better than the younger people of today. The only difference is that the veterans weren't allowed to swear. If had been able to, well, this film is an example of what we would have heard.
The language, which including six usages of the Lord's name in vain in the first 15 minutes, was too unappealing for me. The constant rain in this also helped the dreary atmosphere. Dreary, depressing, too profane with unlikeable characters. Yeah, I can see why this movie bombed at the box office.
Actually, Freeman as a bad guy who is only interested in the money is refreshingly different from the norm, although of course he's not that transparent. Being Hollywood you can work out the rest yourself. Slater is a security guard who is tied up in the great crime, and there's a big flood.
That's about it really, but the effects were good.