Hard Rain Review

In theaters, Hard Rain wasn’t much to talk about, on Blu-ray that holds true.

It’s setting of a flooded town made for an interesting concept; the unforgiving temperament of weather represents a villain that can be at best survived, but never vanquished. With Hard Rain you have a troupe of bandits out to steal money (Villain 1), a torrential downpour and poorly maintained levy resulting in a monstrous flood (Villain 2), and human stupidity (Villain 3). Villain 1 includes the likes of Morgan Freeman (making them more likeable than the hero). Villain 2 can’t be defeated. Villain 3 is inevitable. In short, who the heck is cheering for the hero Christian Slater?

You’re essentially watching a bank heist movie minus the bank plus boats. In fact, the harder you examine the film, the more it feels like a small scale Waterworld. Stay with me on this. You have the beloved veteran actor playing the head of a criminal group well-prepared for the aquatic misadventures of the film (Waterworld: Dennis Hopper, Hard Rain: Morgan Freeman). You have the somewhat exasperated, wooden lead trying to make sense of the entire situation (Waterworld: Kevin Costner, Hard Rain: Christian Slater). A feisty female who joins the hero’s struggle midway through (Waterworld: Jeanne Tripplehorn, Hard Rain: Minnie Driver). Finally, in both Waterworld and Hard Rain the villains are looking for directions to a treasure; in the former it’s the map on the little girl’s hide, in the latter it’s where Tom hid sacks of cash.

With only three years separating Hard Rain from its historic box office blunder predecessor, you have to wonder if the studio noticed the plot similarities.

“This is just like Waterworld isn’t it?”

“No, they had jet skis, we have small worthless motor boats.”

“Oh. Proceed.”

Hard Rain’s plot runs as follows. Tom (Slater) has one more stop on his last-ditch armored truck route to pick-up business paydays in the midst of a downpour. Taking a wrong turn in a small rural town, the armored truck gets stuck when it attempts to ford a road-turned-river. Sadly, someone never played Oregon Trail as a kid and the “All Your Oxen Die” equivalent occurs: the engine floods and then dies. Tom and his partner get out of the truck just as a boat carrying Jim (Freeman) and his cronies approaches, with highbeams pointed into the eyes of the truck drivers. Tom’s partner (Ed Asner) is shot and thus begins a chase through the flooded town with Tom hiding the money and keeping out of the raiders’ grasp as long as he can. Along the way, the local sheriff (Randy Quaid) and the local firebrand dream woman (Minnie Driver) become ensnared in the plot – just in time to save Tom’s life, of course. The last half of the film is all about where Tom hid the money, can he outsmart Jim, and so forth. As far as a thriller goes, it does manage to provide a decent number of exciting sequences and satisfying performances from Freeman and Driver. Slater, on the other hand, just doesn’t have the charisma to fully reciprocate either Freeman’s charm (even as a conniving bad guy) or Driver’s fiery enthusiasm.

The disc gets the average port-job that’s all too common with lesser titles. The translation to high-def doesn’t really benefit the feature (as it’s a silly action film you just can’t take seriously) but at least it keeps up with the changing times. The virtually all-at-night film is the perfect occasion for a hi-def transfer, as everything is crisper and the raging waters just as menacing at ever. It’s just not a very impressive package, unfortunately.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

Cheap port-job means little to no effort exerted in the extra features realm. Nothing to see here, which is a shame because it means the only incentive to buy the upgrade is the opportunity to see Freeman, Slater, and Driver wade through a flood in 1080p. That might be enough for some people, but most will find it a less than compelling argument for ditching the DVD.

"Hard Rain" is on sale February 9, 2010 and is rated R. Action. Directed by Mikael Salomon. Written by Graham Yost. Starring Christian Slater, Edward Asner, Morgan Freeman, Randy Quaid, Minnie Driver.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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