Hard Rain (1998) / Thriller-Action

MPAA Rated: R for violence and language
Running time: 97 min.

Cast: Christian Slater, Morgan Freeman, Randy Quaid, Minnie Driver, Ed Asner, Betty White
Director: Mikael Salomon
Screenplay: Graham Yost

Review published April 8, 1999

Hard Rain and Chain Reaction.  What do these two movies have in common?  Answer: they both have Morgan Freeman (Kiss the Girls, The Shawshank Redemption) as the bad guy, and star an annoying, young, lackluster protagonist. Note to casting directors: when you're casting your main characters, don't make the fatal mistake of making the villain cooler and more likeable than the hero.

After some extremely heavy rain, the river near a small Indiana town is overflowing and the dam is about to burst. Evacuation of the town ensues, with the outgoing sheriff and deputies out in their boats trying to get all the citizens out safely. A couple of armored truck drivers hauling three million in cash get mired in the flood, and become easy prey for quartet of criminals hell-bent on getting that money. They kill one of the armored truck drivers while the other escapes, hiding the money to protect it and his life, and he gets caught by the local sheriff. Now all hell breaks loose as the sheriff and the criminals do battle for the money, with the armored truck driver caught in the crossfire trying to protect it.

The makers of Broken Arrow had the same problem in that film with Slater (Jimmy Hollywood, True Romance) being dwarfed by the antagonist, John Travolta. If I had to guess, I'd say most of the money to make this film must have gone to Freeman and the special effects, both of which are impressive, as the rest of the cast is beyond washed up. Slater and Quaid (Independence Day, Quick Change) are clearly not capable of starring in a major motion picture any longer, and how badly are you searching for actors when you need to scrape the bottom of the acting barrel to get TV stars Ed Asner (Elf, The Animal) and Betty White (Lake Placid, Bringing Down the House) for supporting roles?

This appeared to be a difficult film to make, as all of the action takes place while the actors are standing in several feet of water with rain continuously pouring down. These effects are quite good, and the cinematography is terrific, as it should be given director Salomon (Salem's Lot, A Far Off Place) is also a cinematographer. The puzzling aspect is the continuously well-lit look of the town, which should have lost power early on, and with the storm clouds filling the sky, no moonlight should have pervaded. Of course, if the screen were pitch black, it might have been a less interesting movie, although I guess that's hard to imagine.

The film's main failing lies not only in its casting problems, but also in the simplistic plotting and unimpressive screenplay. It doesn't take much knowledge to think of a plot where millions of dollars are fought over, as its been done countless of times before. When the plot is this derivative, one needs to spin an angle to the story, as in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre or The Good the Bad and the Ugly. The impressive eye-candy gimmick of this film is in the special effects of the constant flooding, yet despite that it's a poor film, as unoriginal as any you're likely to see. Had they introduced more twists and turns to make things less predictable, and spiced up the dialogue, a winner could have been had here. I guess when you're devoid of ideas, pumping money into special effects is the only option.  Hard Rain isn't hard on the brain.

Qwipster's rating:

1999 Vince Leo