At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Hard Rain “98”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Action-Thriller-Disaster/ Stars: Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater, Randy Quaid, Minnie Driver, Edward Asner, Michael Goorjian, Dann Florek, Ricky Harris, Mark Rolston, Peter Murnik, Wayne Duvall, Richard Dysart, Betty White/ Runtime: 97 minutes

I think it is safe to say that what qualifies as a “good film” does not always have to be art-house material, a summer blockbuster, the latest MCU film, a pathos-filled drama, or any other kind of movie that is recognized for having something that helps them to stand out in some way, shape, form, or fashion. The reason I bring this is up is because of the fact that Hard Rain, a tiny entry in the genre of movie magic known as the action film and which has a cast including Christian Slater (Broken Arrow), Morgan Freeman (take your pick), Randy Quaid (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation), and Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting) among others is a film that intriguingly, despite possessing significantly lower than usual ambitions, is nevertheless a riveting example of a good film. I say this because this film is not desiring to garner any awards for its efforts, but instead is content with achieving a basic yet steady level of fun that might result in the film being relatively obscure to a lot of audiences, but which will still engage its main audience for its runtime and leaving them happy with what the film gives them in return. Thus the question becomes is this a good movie then since it not only works like it is supposed even if it gives the audience nothing than a basic level but good old school entertaining film all the same? Indeed I am happy to say that the answer is a jubilant yes. Indeed even though Hard Rain is not by any stretch a classic of this particular genre or even a film that was notable in any particular way, it still manages to triumph in what it sets out to do with little extra filler material, an accomplishment that quite a few other films should really look into utilizing rather than trying to be a lot more than is crucial to giving the singular thing most films of this ilk are made to provide: complete and total entertainment.

The plot is as follows: Hard Rain right off the bat decides to drop us into the middle of a horrific nightmare. It seems that a tiny little town in Indiana is getting absolutely battered by rain and, due to a high danger of flooding, the town’s denizens have been ordered to clear out. As a side effect of this, the town bank is also clearing house and entrusting three million dollars in cash to a pair of armored car officers by the names of Tom and his cranky uncle Charlie. However their assignment soon goes from bad to worse when, following their armored car getting caught in rising water, a call for assistance to the National Guard finds itself hijacked by a quartet of thieves looking to rob the truck. However what seemed like a foolproof plan on their part is botched up when one of them men accidentally opens fire resulting in Tom having to get out of there with the cash and hide it in a cemetery that is nearby. Having succeeded in this endeavor, Tom soon finds himself engaging in a game of cat and mouse with the thieves whilst also being befriended by a young woman named Karen while a trio of local law enforcement officers decide to brave the rising flood water in an attempt to make sure Tom is telling them the truth. However with no less than three million in cash, the fate of a small town, and quite a bit in regards to maneuverability in regards to people being able to cover their tracks all on the line, we soon see that loyalties will be called into question and souls will find themselves prone to that delightful bugger known as corruption over the duration of a single night where we see that anything is truly possible and everyone is most certainly a target especially when it comes to the idea of some easy, easy money.

Now it should be noted that Hard Rain really truly is a movie which is most assuredly part of the dictionary definition of straight-up action film. Indeed even though the film offers hints of potential relationships, constructing a degree of backstory to help ground the film’s narrative, and also conjuring up a few curves in the road whilst also tossing in some comic relief that may not be needed, but actually works quite well all the same, there is not really any doubt that Hard Rain is no more and no less than a simple and quite brainless action film that gets what it needs to right and the few misfires it has don’t manage to bring down the overall viewing experience. Yes a few of the characters in this are essential clichés and only are part of this for no more and no less than dying at some point, but at least the leads are decently constructed if only to the bare minimum and crafted quite well thus giving this film’s simplistic yet potent action beats to work just as well. Indeed there isn’t anything particularly noteworthy about this film’s action moments, but what is noteworthy about this film overall is the astonishing lack of stapled-on nonsense that could potentially derail the film. Indeed this film has both an urgency and a mood that help to ensure this film is not able to steer too far from the core essentials, and even though there are a few moments that deviate from the overall film, they are still able to work quite well despite being unnecessary to the overall viewing experience.

Now in addition to the locale and mood which help to bring a novelty to the film, this film also has in its possession a collection of astonishingly solid performances that really add to the overall film. Of course it should come as little wonder to learn that Morgan Freeman is easily the best of the group. Yet equally worthy of praise is the fact that Freeman doesn’t phone this in even though he could’ve. Rather he decides to treat this role, which is clearly meant to just be resume padding, with the same degree of care and respect that he would a prestige film like Glory or Invictus thus really helping to strengthen film overall. Indeed Freeman does a terrific job at embracing his particular character’s one track mind brilliantly and always is able to play to the “I am here only for the money” mentality perfectly whilst also allowing a few surprising wrinkles to develop here and there. Also worthy of note is Christian Slater who is surprisingly quite potent as a lead that may be shallow on the surface, but still quite effective. Indeed it may be a very typical part in a lot of ways, but that is ok since a movie like this doesn’t really need or require characters that are three-dimensional in order the narrative to work. Despite that however, Slater still does a terrific job at playing alongside the mood and action present in the film thus giving audiences a steady effort that also allows him to blend some humor in with the action quite well. Much in the same vein as Slater, we also see that Quaid’s and Driver’s parts in this mayhem may be typical for, but they both still manage to provide commendable performances that help the film, pardon the pun, stay afloat. Yet with all of that being said, the surprise to be found performance wise in this film is none other than Betty White as a boisterous, opinionated, trap-setting, and gun-holstering elderly resident in town. Yes she provides laughs in a film that doesn’t exactly require them, but White still takes the part and has an absolute blast with it as do the other thespians that she works alongside throughout the duration of this film.

All in all I think it is safe to say that Hard Rain really truly is what can be considered a “good” film in the most basic definition of the word. I say this because whilst the film is not exactly what could be considered material that will be forever etched in the minds of movie lovers’ a’la Casablanca or North by Northwest, it still nevertheless manages to deliver on what it is supposed to within the narrow lane that it chooses to thrive in. Indeed it may exist as a straight-up entry in the action thriller genre, but when equipped with surprisingly decent performances, a fairly unique locale for its main setting, a few intriguing wrinkles here and there, and just the right level of comedic quips sprinkled throughout, Hard Rain is one film that is aiming for no more and no less than just entertaining the heck out of you for a little over 90 minutes. Thankfully with every minute that passes this is one film that manages to do just that from beginning all the way to the very end. On a scale of 1-5 I give Hard Rain “98” a solid 3 out of 5.