Saturday, 24 May 2014

Cutthroat Island (1995)

Now this was back in the day when Renny Harlin was still a reasonably good director of sorts, think hard. This was also a time when Geena Davis was still a famous-ish star with her own action vehicles, remember her?. For this bombastic pirate adventure she teams up with the American version of Cary Elwes in Matthew Modine and together they sail the seven seas blowing the shit outta everything...this must have influenced Michael Bay's little brain in ways we can't imagine, oh wait.

So Geena Davis is the daughter of a pirate who betroths to her a treasure map on his deathbed which shows Cutthroat Island to be a treasure island. Guess what! off she goes to find this treasure with her fathers scurvy band of errrrrm...cutthroats, aboard her fathers ship. Oh and there are some other pieces of the map to find first naturally, whatever. But what pirate flick would be complete without a scenery chewing baddie to pursue the hero/heroine, I swear could this film be anymore cliche? (don't answer that).

Batten down the hatches mateys...errr, etc...It strange to think this film actually bombed as it did because in all fairness its virtually no different from the now famous Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Yeah it is! take a gander, both films have plenty of massive action set pieces including sword fights, jungle antics and galleon battles, of course you have a wide variety of dirty ugly crew members, the dashing hero and the sultry heroine both of whom are a dab hand at sword fighting, side kicks, monkeys, treasure and various olde worlde nautical pirating names for things. This film plays out very much in the same way as the overblown Depp franchise with similar characters and similar visuals, heck had this not failed then I'm sure we would have had similar sequels too. 'PotC' definitely followed suit from this film I have no doubt, the difference being star power, backing and timing I guess as the plots aren't too dissimilar really. 'PotC' became a convoluted haphazard of a franchise over time, at least Cutthroat was straight forward.

Where this film does fail in my eyes is the fact it feels just like a regular action flick that just happens to be set in the 16th Century. Davis the heroine goes around kicking everyone's ass whilst getting out of some of the most audacious scrapes you ever seen since Milla Jovovich went up against some musketeers. The whole thing starts off OK and you can accept the fact there's gonna need to be some suspension of disbelief required but Jesus Christ! things go from being semi reasonable to totally outrageous as the invincible Davis virtually back flips her way through the film. But nothing here feels genuine, you could take all of it and stick it in the present day and you wouldn't notice a difference, the period setting is just for visual kicks.

Everything just feels so setup and false its terrible, the visuals on the whole are average at best. It all seems to vary depending on the scene, most of the port/building set sequences, either interior or exterior, just look like what they are, sets ready to be blown up, burnt down or wrecked. You can almost see the props ready to go, you can certainly see stunt doubles and safety harnesses. The location sequences do look good as you'd expect with sunny locals and they add much needed authenticity.

Where the film does deserve praise are the well constructed ships we see. Now despite the ludicrous ship battles where cannons are fired by the shit load yet no damage is seen, the ships themselves do look pretty good. The highlight of the entire film being the moment one ship is blown to smithereens which does look impressive if I do say so myself. I won't linger on the fact that our two heroes dove off that ship just as it explodes which I'm pretty sure would cut them to pieces with flying debris and big ass splinters.

There's no real tension or excitement because you know who's gonna die and who's gonna survive. The fact that Davis is the butch hardass heroine (not particularly sexy at all) and Modine is the weaker bumbling love interest is possibly about the only semi decent aspect in the film really. Modine has those classic Errol looks but he isn't the classic dashing hero really, he needs rescuing most of the time in a neat role reversal which sees him as the damsel in distress of sorts. I mean yeah its nothing major in terms of a plot twist but its at least something in a sea of cliched action crap.

Most of the other cast/crew members are your stereotypical salty dogs, most have beards, scraggly long hair, some are bald, the token big black tribal guy, a bloke seems to have Maori tattoos on his face which was quite cool admittedly, eye patches, the odd wooden leg and one guy seems to have a retractable chain for an arm which seems out of place. Then you have the British who...well what do you think, they are all exactly like the British in 'PofC'. The only real stand out character must be Langella as the baddie pirate 'Dawg Brown' (yep that's his name). Now Langella is clearly having a ball as he chews up every scene he's in with gusto. It actually gets to a point where Langella is over acting so much, having so much fun as he growls, barks and roars with evilness, that situations become comedic pantomime in nature. Langella is virtually beating his chest as he looks up to the skies in one scene, its hilarious! but not good for the films tension really.

This really is your typical predictable action blockbuster that doesn't offer any kind of real tension thrills or excitement because we all know the very obvious outcome before its even started. Its like 'Waterworld' in the sense that its purely and simply all about effects and big stunts yet nothing more, the whole film could easily be a spectacular Universal Studious live show (just like 'Waterworld'). At no point do you ever really care about any character or their adventure because its all a cliched rollercoaster, did you really think Modine or Davis' characters would get killed off? or any of the main pirate crew cast? hell even that little monkey makes it.

This film really reminds me of the mid 90's and a time when very simple dumb cloned action flicks still got cinema releases (*cough!*...'Broken Arrow'?...*cough!*) . They were all the same kind of spiel but in a different location or merely with a new duo in the lead roles, same idea, new face combination. The plot and dialog is nothing more than filler simply moving us from one big setup to the next, and what dialog we do get is loaded with God awful snappy quickfire quips that make you cringe. The only one damn thing this film didn't manage to include and pillage was the most iconic visual pirate cliche ever...a parrot.

'Bad Dawg!'