Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 37 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Violence
Directed by: Mikael Salomon
Written by: Graham Yost
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater, Randy Quaid, Minnie Driver, Edward Asner & Michael Goorjian
In all likelihood, you probably haven’t heard of HARD RAIN. This disaster/action flick came and went so fast in the January of 1998 that it didn’t leave much of an impression on anyone, though it has gone down as a huge financial flop (earning back less than a third of its 70 million budget). While there are plenty of notorious box office bombs that are well deserving of their losses, HARD RAIN is actually entertaining. It’s a shame that not many people have heard of or remember this movie, because RAIN is a pretty enjoyable combination of natural disaster adventure and action thriller.
A small Indiana town has been hit with the worst rain storm in U.S. history. The water level is steadily rising and homes have been evacuated. All this being said, it only makes sense that unlucky Tom has been saddled with transporting 3 million dollars in an armored truck. After experiencing car problems due to waist-deep levels of water, Tom finds himself on the run from a group of armed criminals who want the money. In order to stay alive, Tom hides the millions in cash and navigates his way through the flooded streets. His luck only gets worse as the rain keeps pouring, the violent criminals desperately pursue him, and a couple of mentally unhinged cops get wind of his newly hidden treasure. The rain was only the beginning. The gunfire and chases through the drenched landscape could be Tom’s end.
Brought to the screen by the same folks who made SPEED, HARD RAIN manages to combine two well-worn genres into something that feels enjoyable and arguably a little fresh. This is a traditional action flick with a disaster movie twist. There’s not a glimpse of sunshine in the entire film as rain keeps pouring and the flood is everywhere. Production was a believably miserable experience with the cast and crew being soaked through most of the movie. It pays off for those wanting simple popcorn entertainment as HARD RAIN is predictable for the most part, but also quite fun. The film is well-paced, though forced comedy relief moments put a damper on some of the momentum. RAIN also boasts really cool action scenes, including a rip-roaring chase through the flooded hallways of a school as well as a finale that delivers everything you’d want and expect from a movie of this type. Again, the story isn’t necessarily anything new, borrowing clichés liberally from standard action fare and predictable disaster movies, but still winds up being entertaining.
The biggest problem in HARD RAIN are the characters. These people are bland. Christian Slater plays a cookie-cutter good guy. He isn’t given much of a personality and merely serves as a protagonist to escape various crazy scenarios. Morgan Freeman plays the cookie-cutter bad guy. His interest is purely in the money and he yells at people while occasionally firing guns. Meanwhile, Minnie Driver is…you guessed it…the cookie-cutter good-looking gal. She serves as Slater’s unlikely love interest and sidekick through the latter half of this adventure. Like everyone else, she isn’t given a real personality. You might be asking: Is anybody in this film given a personality? Well, yes! Randy Quaid (of all people) is really awesome as the redneck, socially disgraced Sheriff who becomes blinded by the prospect of 3 million dollars hidden in his town. Quaid comes off as a likable guy in the beginning but one of the main threats by the end. He’s wholly enjoyable in this role and allowed room to make it his own.
HARD RAIN is one of the biggest box office flops from 1998 and that’s a shame. The movie isn’t great or even particularly special, but it’s a pretty fun flick that never takes itself too seriously. The comic relief can be annoying and a majority of the characters merely serve as means to an end, but the action scenes are well-executed and the natural disaster element adds a constant danger to already dangerous proceedings. This is an underrated gem from the 90’s that has sadly gone unnoticed. If you’re in the mood for a fun time-killer, check out HARD RAIN.