Hard Rain (1998) — A flood-drenched money heist

“O my God. This is my car from high school.”

Justin’s rating: Wet behind the ears

Justin’s review: I never quite understood why there was this weird push to try to make diminutive Christian Slater an action movie star in the ’90s. Broken Arrow was a weird turn, but he was OK in Young Guns II. He’s just kind of a short and specific type of actor that it makes it a little hard to buy him even as a John McClaine everyman. But considering that he’s co-producer of today’s movie, I think I can answer the question for the moment.

And if the casting here isn’t strange enough, we have perhaps one of the only two movies in existence where Morgan Freeman — Morgan Freeman! — is the bad guy.

I’ve been on a streak of watching ’90s movies as of late, catching up with several titles that I’d skipped over back in the day. Hard Rain has been on my “to watch” list for a good while now, more so for the concept than the stars. You’d think that making a movie that’s drenched in waist-high water for most of its duration would be a nightmare for film crews, so I figured there had to be something amazing here worth the trouble.

During some monumental flood event in (checks) Indiana… wait, Indiana? I lived in Indiana. It’s not a state well-known for waist-high floods and Christian Slaters. In any case, during a flood situation, a group of somewhat likable thieves hold up an armored car transporting three million dollars. It goes south pretty quick, and like a jackrabbit, Tom (Slater) takes off with the money and hides it in a cemetery.

A crimp successfully put into the robbers’ plan, a mad scramble ensues between the bad guys, the Slaters, and the few remaining townspeople (including one Randy Quaid, playing the ousted sheriff). With the water rising and a dam threatening to overflow, time’s limited to resolve the situation with the maximum amount of casualties that this hunting season allows.

I’ll say this for Hard Rain: It’s most likely the only film you’ll see where jet skis zip through an Indiana high school. It’s mid-budget Waterworld!

I’ll also say that silly premise aside, at least Hard Rain cranks up the action early and keeps it going. Sometimes you want a mindless thriller with a lot of stunts and cheesy one-liners, and this would fit the bill nicely in that situation. The rising water actually does a great job of being clear and present danger in most of the scenes.

It is hard to find this group of bad guys any sort of serious threat. Tom’s actually more in danger from Minnie Driver, who shows up to clobber him over the head and remind me that Driver used to be a common sight in 1990s movies.

Hard Rain is an example of a movie that got slammed by critics and ignored by audiences yet grew some measure of fandom since its release. It had a healthy budget, which shows up as the chaotic flooding gets progressively worse. And it’s not like we have an infinite number of ’90s action flicks to discover. It might not have hit the mark to be the next Speed, but that doesn’t mean it’s without virtue. I kind of had a pretty good time kicking back with it — and I stayed dry the entire time.

One comment

  1. Morgan Freeman in that picture is monologuing in his mind, “I was in The Shawshank Redemption and Se7en. What the hell am I doing here?”

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