Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pyrate Movie Review: Cutthroat Island

In 1995, Renny Harlin, the creative force behind such masterpieces as Exorcist: The Beginning and The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, decided to write and direct a summer blockbuster about pirates. He wrote a script, and talked a studio into greenlighting his project. Then every leading man he approached passed after reading the script.

So what did he do? He revamped the script to make the love interest the main character.

Geena Davis was Harlin's wife at the time. The studio didn't think she was summer blockbuster leading lady material, but evidently Harlin has hypnotic powers. He cast her in the lead and never looked back.

The result? Cutthroat Island is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the worst film flop of all time. Budgeted at $100 million, the film grossed $10 million domestically.

But it's not a terrible movie. It's just not that interesting. The dialogue is bland and cliche-ridden. The direction is uneven: Harlin couldn't decide if his adventure movie should be campy or straight (best guess: he wanted it straight but his wife could only do campy). The plot is not driving; things happen in sequence, but no tension is established. There is a reason this film has been forgotten.

Although the writing and directing are fairly incompetent, the story itself is okay... since it's basically lifted from Treasure Island.

There are some who say, "if you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all." So let's take a moment to praise the art director. The costumes, ships, props and locations are all gorgeous. If you have a pirate party, project Cutthroat Island on the wall without the sound and play some music. Actually, play the CD of the film soundtrack, because John Debney's musical score is award-winningly good.

This film gave pirates a bad name in hollywood for ten years, and ended Geena Davis' film career. For some reason, the real perpetrator, Renny Harlin, is still being given work.


Two out of five skulls

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