Ding! Here’s movie number two for my top 10 worst films of 1998 list! I’m building quite a collection: first fire (Firestorm), now water. I wonder what other natural wonders January will bring me.
Scripted by Graham Yost, Hard Rain follows Yost’s formula: high concept, low characterizations, and even lower plot. Yost likes to write chase movies, which is OK, but he tends to write them so formulaic that it’s getting tired now, so please Graham come up with something new. Let me give you a run down of the films that Yost has written so far: Speed, bomb on bus, chase down time trying to stop the bomb. Worked well because of, then rookie cinematographer-turned-director, Jan De Bont’s excellent eye for action and tension. Broken Arrow, stolen nuclear bomb, must chase down the bomb before it gets blown up. Worked well because of John Woo’s style and excellent eye for action. Hard Rain, stolen money, must chase down money because the bad guys are greedy. Doesn’t work because of the eye of cinematographer-turned-director Mikael Salomon who muddles up the action and can’t build tension.
Yost, as I pointed out in my Broken Arrow review, needs to have a good director working on his scripts. If not the scripts fall apart because the audience is given too much time to think about how ludicrous his scripts are and because the audience is not convincingly wowed by the spectacular action. We are given more than enough time to think about Yost’s script in Hard Rain. Hard Rain runs a few minutes over an hour and a half, and it has got to be the longest, and most painful, hour and a half – next to Firestorm – that I’ve spent in a theatre in the last few months.
Here’s a run down of the premise of the story. During a huge storm in Huntingburg, Indiana, a group of men lead by Jim (Morgan Freeman) tries to steal a cool three million dollars from an armor truck. Charlie (Ed Asner), with Tom (Christian Slater) riding along, is driving the armored truck. After a shootout, Charlie is dead, Tom has hidden the money, and the chase is on. Throw in a greedy town sheriff (Randy Quaid) and a damsel-in-distress (Minnie Driver) and this is what Yost calls a good script.
Next to a sudden twist near the end of the film, this film is very predictable and boring. The action is bland and when it is not bland, rain and some bad camera work muddle it.
Mikael Salomon, who’s biggest stint so far was as cinematographer for James Cameron on The Abyss tries hard to make this film work, but the film is weighted down by a few factors. The biggest would be the script. Along with this would be the acting, next to Morgan Freeman, who is always great onscreen, there are no other good performances. The other performances range from bland (Minnie Driver) to wimpy (Christian Slater) to silly (Randy Quiad). There is too much “padding-time.” Padding-time is what I consider time onscreen when there is really nothing except to pad the movie’s running time to the requisite 90 minutes or more. Yost fills this padding-time with silly one-liners and two old folk (Rick Harris and Betty White) for comedy relief. Talking about one-liners, Yost doesn’t seem to have a concept about conversation or dialogue. Whenever a character onscreen opens their mouth, it seems to be either to scream or spit out a one-liner. And lastly, Christian Slater as Tom just does not work. Ever since I saw Christian Slater try to become an action hero in Broken Arrow I was convinced that he couldn’t. And he proves it in Hard Rain. Slater is just a wimp.
The studio-heads change the name of this film from The Flood to Hard Rain after it performed badly with test audiences. My suggestion to the studio-heads: should have change a lot more or kept it in the vault. Skip this film, it’s awful.