Sunday, December 27, 2009

'Hard Rain' is an overlooked action flick

Hard Rain (aka "Flood") (1998)
Starring: Christian Slater, Morgan Freeman, Randy Quaid and Minnie Driver
Director: Mikael Salomon
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

A gang of criminal led by a gentleman thief (Freeman) find their attempt to rob an armored car during a flood evacuation frustrated by a young security guard (Slater) who escapes into the storm with the $3 million dollars it was carrying. As the flood waters rise, the robbers try to corner the guard and retrieve the money... but it isn't until a third party decides to make a bid for the money that things turn really deadly.

"Hard Rain" is part thriller, part disaster movie and all excitement. It's a well-crafted. well-acted film that is suspenseful from beginning to end. Even better, writer Graham Yost shows that he has an understanding of basic storytelling techniques and story structure, something that few people writing action or suspense scripts seem to have any sense for today. (Yost foreshadows just about every element and development in the story well in advance, thus playing fair with the audience and making each plot twist and complication all that more satisfying. Particularly neat is the recurrence of a statue in the town square of the small town that's being flooded that seems like it's just being used to show the audience how rapidly the water is rising, but which later in the film becomes a key element in a some very dramatic moments.)

While Morgan Freeman plays the sort of character he's played in at least two other movies--the aging professional thief who is hoping to score a big heist to retire on--he is perhaps at his most charismatic here, and he plays the sort of bad guy we find ourselves rooting for even if our sympathies lie first and foremost with Christian Slater's heroic, stubborn security guard.

Speaking of Slater, he also gives an excellent performance as perhaps the most likeable and normal character he's ever played. Usually, there's something a little off or quirky about a Christian Slater character, but not so with Tom in this movie. Tom is exactly the sort of guy everyone would want to have a best friend or a brother-in-law.

"Hard Rain" was a box office flop when it was released in 1998--the film cost $70 million to make and only earned $22.4 million worldwide, according to IMDB--which is a shame, because it deserved to do better. In fact, it was such a big flop and the international array of backers who financed this film were soaked more thoroughly than any of the characters in the film.

If you like well-done action movies, or if you're a fan of Christian Slater's equally undeserving of failure television series "My Own Worst Enemy", I encourage you to check this film out.