movie film review | chris tookey

Cutthroat Island

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  Cutthroat Island Review
Tookey's Rating
5 /10
Average Rating
4.80 /10
Morgan ........ Geena Davis , Shaw .......... Matthew Modine , Dawg .......... Frank Langella
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Directed by: Renny Harlin
Written by: Robert King and Marc Norman

Released: 1995
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 123

Adventures of a woman pirate (Geena Davis).
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Finnish director Renny Harlin is best known for Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger. Here, he lavishes a big budget and spectacular stunts on a leaky star vehicle which seems to have been cobbled together over-hastily from the wreckage of a hundred other pirate movies.

The surprise is that there are no surprises. Everything you would expect is there - peg-legs, explosions, mutiny, swinging on ropes, swordplay, treasure maps - all of it bigger and louder than ever.

Even the one departure from the norm is predictable - a humourless, quasi-feminist inversion of the usual sexual roles.

The best that can be said of Mr Harlin's lover, Geena Davis, in the kind of part which used to be played by Errol Flynn or Burt Lancaster, is that she is tall. But she looks about as vicious as Gabriela Sabatini, and the only interesting aspect of Miss Davis's performance is the way her chest has of appearing then disappearing, like an ocean swell.

The unlikeliness extends far beyond Miss Davis's wonderbra. A storm washes the good guys up precisely on the island that they're hoping to reach. In the climactic sea-battle, dozens of cannon-balls and colossal explosions fail to knock a single hole in the side of a ship.

As Davis's love interest, Matthew Modine is as wet and weedy as the Sargasso Sea and it isn't hard to see why the actor he replaced, Michael Douglas, jumped ship before having to do any serious jolly rogering.

Even the reliable Frank Langella as chief baddie is all at sea, first becalmed and then scuppered by a script which gives him little to do but snarl, and thinks it the height of wit to point out that the other villain (Patrick Malahide) is English by always placing a cup of tea in his hand.

There really were lady pirates, but it is clear that no one involved in this script reckoned it worth doing research into them, and thought the old Hollywood cliches would do. Well, they didn't - Cutthroat Island was one of the all-time box-office disasters, returning only $10 million on its $90 million budget.

A lot of technical skill went into the production. Watch in the right, uncritical spirit and it's enjoyably idiotic trash. But Harlin's attempots at comedy perish among the non-stop action and excessive gruesomeness.

“Renny Harlin never really spoke to me on Cutthroat Island. he spent a lot of his time just finding new ways to blow things up.”
(Matthew Modine)

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