Should I Watch..? 'Hard Rain' (1998)
What's the big deal?
Hard Rain is an action thriller released in 1998 and written by Graham Yost, the creator of runaway Nineties smash, Speed. Reuniting with that film's producer Mark Gordon, Yost's watery heist flick was sadly a critical bomb and one of the biggest financial flops at the box office that year. As a result, it was released straight-to-video in most overseas markets where it fared much better, eventually recouping its $70 million budget. The movie stars Christian Slater, Morgan Freeman, Minnie Driver and Randy Quaid and is considered by some to be a "spiritual successor" to Speed. The film itself concerns the attempted heist of a armoured security truck during a massive flood and the efforts of one man to prevent the thieves from getting away with the loot.
What's it about?
Security drivers Tom and his uncle Charlie are escorting $3 million in cash away from small local banks as the worst rainstorm in recorded history makes its way towards the town of Huntingburg in Indiana. After getting stuck just outside Huntingburg, Charlie radios for help from the National Guard but before they arrive, the van is attacked by Jim and his petty gang of crooks who were hiding in a nearby cemetery. During the assault, Tom escapes with the money while Charlie is accidentally shot and killed.
Fleeing into town with the cash, Tom finds the town abandoned due to the rising flood waters but must still contend with Jim and the robbers as well as corrupt Sheriff Mike Collig and church restorer Karen who inadvertently gets mixed up in it all. Will any of them escape the rising flood waters with the money or more importantly, their lives?
What's to like?
Tired of seeing the same actors shoot at each other in glorious, sunny California? Well, this movie provides as stark a contrast as you can get - it's dark, wet and somewhere you wouldn't want to be. It also gives Yost a unique angle to try something new and unexpected in the film's action sequences like the jet-ski pursuit through a high school. It lifts the movie beyond simple action clichés and surely, that is something to celebrate.
You also have to doff your shower cap to Freeman and Slater who have the majority of scenes in the movie and presumably had to spend an enormous amount of time up to their necks in freezing cold water. And still, they put in adequate performances even if Freeman struggles to convince us he's really a baddie. But it's not really the sort of movie that runs on acting plaudits - the action is what you really want to see and by and large, it delivers. It also gets quite thrilling in places when the water levels continue to rise.
- In an interview with Empire magazine in 1997, Minnie Driver said that she hated this movie due to the intense, continuously wet conditions.
- The movie uses a song called Flood by Christian rock group Jars of Clay who believe that this propelled them to mainstream attention in the US.
- The name of the film was changed from The Flood because producers didn't want people to assume it was a disaster film. They wanted to push the heist element a bit more.
What's not to like?
Having said that about acting not being the movie's selling point, there is little effort from the rest of the cast. Driver is about as wooden as the bannister she finds herself handcuffed to while Quaid is distinctly unmemorable, quite unlike his current state. The plot doesn't help them - even forgetting about the vast plot-holes and the fact that the film simply would never happen in real life (whoever heard of money being withdrawn from a bank that was going to get flooded?), the dialogue doesn't give anyone anything memorable or interesting to say and most of the time, they come across as walking, talking bits of driftwood.
And despite the $70 million budget, the film does look surprisingly cheap in places. CG is particularly poor and there are moments when the town looks just like a model as the waters crash ever onwards over the roofs. I'm willing to bet that the majority of the money went on huge sets and water machines and there wasn't enough left for the rest. It even uses a painted backdrop, the largest in cinema history at the time. This is only a year before The Matrix came out, for heavens sake!
Should I watch it?
You'd need to be in a forgiving mood but yes, Hard Rain offers you something a little different from the norm. It might be gimmicky and poorly made in places but it's imaginative and inventive - two things action movies aren't known for being. It has its faults but it's an enjoyable way of spending time. It's certainly better than swimming with piranha.
Great For: less discerning viewers, adrenaline junkies, action fans
Not So Great For: cynics, people used to cutting-edge CG, Minnie Driver's hair
What else should I watch?
Getting tired of saying it but Speed is probably the most fun you can have with a ludicrous concept - fun, thrilling, exciting, everything a quality action movie should be. Equally daft but just as interesting is Con Air which, at the very least, managed to get some serious over-acting from its cast led by the utterly insane Nicholas Cage. And if you have watch a watery film then I suppose Titanic will probably float your boat better than it actually did itself.
The other side of water-based action movies is usually based around some vicious eater of people swimming beneath the surface. Jaws, naturally, is the biggest fish in this particular pond but don't discount the likes of Deep Blue Sea as it has plenty of B-movie shocks and surprisingly decent CG and animatronic sharks.
Sheriff Mike Collig
Release Date (UK)
3rd April, 1998
Action, Crime, Thriller
© 2015 Benjamin Cox