Hard Rain (15)
AT A time when movie-makers like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez are turning the thriller genre on its head, and producers with bottomless pockets are throwing tens of millions of dollars at their glossy action epics, it’s hard to come up with something original.
With Hard Rain (1hr 36mins), director Mikael Salomon and writer Graham Yost have created an innovative and inventive little picture which combines thrills and spills with some terrific special effects and stuntwork.
Throw in some nicely balanced – and straight-faced – acting from Christian Slater, Morgan Freeman, Minnie Driver and Randy Quaid, and one has a film which rises above the formulaic and becomes a quality piece of entertainment.
In Huntingburg torrential rains bring rising flood waters which threaten to engulf the town, forcing sheriff Randy Quaid to order a mass evacuation.
Into the town, and its rising flood waters, come veteran security guard Ed Asner and his nephew Christian Slater, bringing with them $3 million from local banks.
When their truck becomes stuck in the rising flood waters, they look for help, but run straight into an armed gang, led by Morgan Freeman, intent on snatching the loot.
So begins a cat-and-mouse chase between the resourceful Slater and the equally resourceful Freeman, each trying to stay one step ahead of the other while keeping – literally – their heads above water.
There is a pulse-racing nature about Hard Rain which makes it a hugely enjoyable movie. Much of its success is down to director Salomon and producer Mark Gordon who, between them, cut their teeth on thrill-a-minute movies like Broken Arrow, Speed, Backdraft and The Abyss.
Salomon has created a punchy, vibrant, action-packed thriller which resembles a waterlogged western. There are the black hats versus the white hats, but the stand-off takes place not in a dusty street, but in a flooded boulevard.
He throws in an imaginative jet-ski chase in a flooded school, a fistful of tightly-choreographed waterborne stunts and, to top it all, a gunfight in a flooded cemetery.
Hard Rain is a great looking film which, though made predominantly in the studio, only rarely betrays its set-bound origins. Though the dam-burst finale is evident almost from the first reel, it rises above many other films of similar construction because of its first-rate cast.
Slater, who co-produced the picture, is terrific as Tom, the temporary guard who finds himself standing between Jim, Morgan Freeman’s gentleman thief, and his gang of increasingly desperate desperadoes.
He combines intelligence, guile and courage to battle his foe, and is matched every step of the way by Jim, Freeman’s weary career thief who sees the hard cash as his retirement fund.
Then there’s Randy Quaid’s ambiguous sheriff, who has his own agenda, and Karen (Driver), the spunky chick who becomes Tom’s only real ally against the bad guys and the ever-rising flood waters.
Hard Rain is not the most original movie you will see this year, nor is it the brashest. It has neither the biggest stunts nor the loudest explosions. For those check out vacuous blockbusters like Independence Day.
But it remains a rarity – an action movie based on characterisation and a storyline, with a touch of comedy, which has more than a few twists in the tail.
Unprepossessing, solid entertainment, and splendid fun. Don’t miss it.