Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer All Wet

By Susan Ellis

JANUARY 26, 1998:  Given all the rain we’ve had here in 1998, the thought of going to a movie set in a glut of precipitation seems pretty unappealing. But it’s not just bad timing that ails Hard Rain. The fact is that Hard Rain is all too run-of-the-mill to make any real waves. It’s better suited for rental, when its viewers can better appreciate it through a haze of a few beers and take-out pizza.

It begins in the small town of Huntingburg just as it’s being evacuated due to rising flood waters. Those who remain are the town’s sheriff (Randy Quaid) and two of his deputies, a woman named Karen (Minnie Driver), who stays behind to save the church she’s worked to restore, an old couple who refuse to budge, a pair of armored-car drivers Charlie and Tom (Ed Asner and Christian Slater), plus a team of bandits led by a man named Jim (Morgan Freeman).

Just as Charlie and Tom are making their way through town, loaded down with $3 million in cash, their truck stalls in the water and they are soon greeted by Jim and his men. One gunfight later, Charlie floats away with a bullet in his neck, and Tom is off swimming, pulling the bags of money along. Jim intuits that Tom will stash the money, so he orders the men to find Tom and not kill him until he leads them to the money.

Meanwhile, Tom does hide the money and seeks a place to hide. He happens upon the church and a crucifix-wielding Karen, who clocks him over the head and then drags him off to the police station. There, Tom tells the sheriff his story, and the sheriff agrees to check it out. What Tom doesn’t know is that this sheriff is the outgoing sheriff and as such has made the impulsive decision to go out with that armored-car money.

What follows is a series of chases: Tom is pursued by the bad guys, the sheriff pursues the bad guys, the bad guys pursue the sheriff, and Tom pursues the sheriff, and so on. This action is punctuated by near-drownings and electrocutions. In fact, if one positive thing can be said about Hard Rain, written by Graham Yost (Broken Arrow, Speed) and directed by Mikael Salomon (A Far Off Place) it is that it moves swiftly and only really drags at the end. But that’s basically it. The script is filled with some truly bad dialogue (the highlight being when an old man says the f-word) and cliched characters (a true-blue cop destined to die and a Bible-quoting thug destined to die).

Though the cast is solid enough, the script leaves them dog-paddling. Freeman gives his normally composed performance, and Quaid and Slater muddle through as best they can, but Driver’s thick-mouthed American accent makes the movie just that much worse.

If we have to have all this business about guardian angels – the books, the magazine articles, the TV series Touched By An Angel – well, it seems only fair that demons get equal time. So it is that Fallen, starring Denzel Washington, has come about. Call it Touched By A Devil.

This is literally the premise of Fallen. Washington plays homicide detective John Hobbes, who battles an unseen evil force which passes from human to human by touch and takes over its host to do its bidding.

Hobbes has been tagged by the demon through one of its bodies belonging to serial killer Edgar Reese (Elias Koteas). Hobbes nabbed Reese and is there to witness his collar’s last breaths – used in part to sing the Rolling Stones’ “Time Is On My Side” – in the gas chamber. Hobbes is nonchalant about Reese’s passing that night and boasts that he looked good being interviewed on no less than four channels. But Hobbes’ peace of mind is soon disturbed when he begins to investigate new murders that look exactly like Reese’s dirty work.

These are no ordinary copycat murders. Whoever is doing them knows more than the average television viewer. It appears to be an inside job and all clues increasingly point to Hobbes. The killer leaves little hints, writings on walls and on his victims. Hobbes pieces these marks together, leading him to Gretta Milano (Embeth Davidtz), an expert on angels and the daughter of a respected cop who 30 years earlier fell victim to this same demon. So Hobbes knows who the killer is, but he doesn’t know what form he’ll take or how to prevent him from coming in contact with his family, his friends, or even himself.

Fallen is directed by Gregory Hoblit (Primal Fear) and written by Nicholas Kazan (Reversal of Fortune). Together, Hoblit and Kazan are going for a certain style. The camera spins around to the demon’s various bodies as it makes its way congo-line-like through a crowd, while its viewpoint is seen in brightened blues and reds. Their hero, Hobbes, ruminates over his situation through lines of important-sounding mumbo-jumbo (“I love the night, the street, the smells. … Sometimes you come face to face with yourself”). The effect of the filmmakers’ mindfulness is neither thrilling nor particularly eerie (though it does feel very, very long). Fallen lacks, in a word, soul.

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