Hard Rain

Hard Rain by Mikael Salomon could have been and almost is a really
competently managed thriller. Half-way through it I was weighing up whether it
deserved one or two stars and delighting in what I took to be an unexpected
throwback to the old days in Hollywood when the stories the movies told were
tough but never merely cynical. I should have known better. Right at the
beginning, as we were watching a gang of robbers led by Jim (Morgan Freeman)
plan an armored car heist, one of the bad guys had started quoting scripture, so
the writing was on the wall, as you might say. In the movies today, Bible-study
is always associated with psychopathic behavior. But after that moment, the
sneering, cynical Hollywood ethos which has become so familiar hardly makes an
appearance until well on in the picture. Yet when it does, the whole thing
collapses like the houses being washed away by the flood on the screen.

As in L.A. Confidential, which is rapidly becoming my favorite
reference point for what is wrong with the movies these days, the film shows us
two young people who are inexplicably good while all around them society, and
especially authority and the sources of social order, reeks of corruption.
Christian Slater plays Tom, the young armored car guard whose dogged
faithfulness to his charge, even at repeated risk to his own life, looks merely
bizarre and possibly insane the more that everyone around him, including his
uncle and fellow guard (Edward Asner) and all Jim’s gang members as well as the
local sheriff (Randy Quaid) and all his deputies show that they care for nothing
but themselves. As Tom’s obligatory female companion, whose handiness with a pen
knife saves both him and herself, Minnie Driver has motivations for risking her
life that are even more obscure. Heck, there have got to be some limits on what
a girl will do to hang out with Christian Slater.

Rain and the rising floodwaters are the leitmotif of the picture. Again and
again there are shots of the local dam coming under more and more pressure from
the waters it cannot hold back. So in addition to the frequent, three-sided
gunplay in pursuit of the $3 million dollars from the armored car, we must worry
about whether whoever gets the money will get out of town ahead of the
inevitable flood. This issue is unfortunately dodged in the end. The dam’s
bursting, when it comes, is anticlimactic and affects the action hardly at all.
So we are left to watch with less and less interest as the social structure of
the movie’s world disintegrates along with the character of its guardians
(corrupt police have now become such a cliché in Hollywood that the
filmmakers don’t even bother to justify it in dramatic terms anymore—they’re
bad just because they’re bad) and along with the dam. And along, too, with the
movie itself.

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