From the director of THE ADVENTURES OF FORD FAIRLANE, Renny
Harlin, we have CUTTHROAT ISLAND. It was one of last year's big budget
films costing almost $100 million dollars to make. Unless it becomes a
big hit in the video stores, it is destined to be a megaflop. You can
pay three bucks now and see it on pay-per-view.
Unlike other expensive films where most of the money goes to the
superstars, here the money appears to be spent on the production.
Renny Harlin comes from the Cecil B. DeMille school of movie making.
The only difference is he does not have DeMille's talent. What Renny
does know how to do is create explosion after explosion. His motto is:
when the pace is in danger of slowing a bit, blow up something. This
technique can work in a movie with more of a plot, as this year's
EXECUTIVE DECISION, but here it only serves to let people test out
their new subwoofers. To Renny's credit, he probably made a
significant dent in the unemployment rate since there are thousands
upon thousands of extras.
The plot is that in the 1600s "notorious lady pirate" Morgan
Adams's (Gina Davis) father dies. She gets the crew of his ship to
elect her captain over her rival. The election is ultimately decided
by a single person, but it does provide an early example of democracy
She tells the crew that she has a map to buried treasure, but
there are two problems. First she has only a third of the map. To get
one of the other parts they will have to fight the evil Dawg (Frank
Langella) and his ship of rival pirates. The other problem is the map
is in Latin, which none of them can read. They solve this problem by
buying a doctor, William Shaw (Matthew Modine), who has been put in
prison for stealing and turned into a slave.
The show pays only lip service to the idea of a plot. This is a
pure swashbuckling action picture. Here Davis attempts to be a female
Douglas Fairbanks. She kills people left and right, and she gets in
numerous knockdown fistfights where she always wins. Davis has
tremendous fun playing a pirate - wouldn't we all? Too bad the
director did not worry more about whether the audience was having fun.
About 10 minutes of this is somewhat interesting, but then it is pure
The script by Michael Frost Beckner, Bruce Evans, and Raynold
Gideon has nothing of value to say. It wastes little time with
character development or plot, best to get the actors to the next fight
as quickly as possible. A typical line is Shaw's, "Congratulations
Madam. Another town you've destroyed."
The cinematography (Peter Levy) is full of bright lights and
strong colors. The music (John Debney) is alive and pulsates with a
heavy beat right along with the sounds of the cannons and the guns.
The sets (Norman Garwood) are enormous, and the costumes (Enrico
Sabbatini) elaborate. No expense is spared. I have a friend who looks
for plotless action films for watching while working out on his
NorticTrac, this is perfect for that. If your TV has a knob that turns
off the dialog, feel free to do so without worrying about losing out on
Finally, in Renny Harlin's defense, he has made a single good
film. His DIE HARD 2 is spectacular, and it has a strong narrative
drive. I guess once you come up with one winner, the studios open
their bank accounts to you forever.
CUTTHROAT ISLAND runs an unnecessarily long 2:03. It is rated
PG-13 which is probably right given the violence level. There is a lot
of violence, but it is pretty cartoonish. CUTTHROAT ISLAND would be
fine for kids say 8 or 9 and up. I was bored silly by it, but it does
possess an impressive sound and look. I would advise catching one of
those short cable films that talks about the making of the movie
instead and skip the show itself. The excerpts suffice. I give the
picture a thumbs down and rate it * 1/2.
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes