Directed by Renny Harlin

Starring Geena Davis, Matthew Modine, Frank Langella

"Cutthroat Island"

Opened: December 22, 1995

Silly me, I didn't know they made cannon balls with Napalm in 1668.

But then, when you're making a movie as bad as "Cutthroat Island," historical inaccuracies like the fact that cannon balls only make holes, and do not explode like dynamite, are the least of your worries.

"Cutthroat Island" easily qualifies as one of the worst big-budget movies ever made. The only enjoyment to be found in this badly acted, poorly scripted disaster is sitting in a quiet theater and shouting out smart remarks.

Outbursts of "Nice blue-screen!" and "Look, it's a matte painting!" at the preview screening were considerably more entertaining than the film itself.

Determined to make an epic adventure even if it bankrupt the production company (which it did), director Renny Harlin ("Die Hard," "Cliffhanger") took the standard pirate cliche, the hunt for a buried treasure, and stretched it into two plus hours with a wretched script, cue card quality acting and lots of explosions.

When I was 10 years old I wrote a detective story with "borrowed" plot devices and dialogue that, being 10, I thought was terribly clever.

Had it been a pirate story, it would have been "Cutthroat Island."

Full of desperate attempts at one-liners and wild incontinuities, the movie depends on dried up ideas to advance the plot (the treasure map is in three pieces held by three brothers -- how original) and uses every cliche from every previous pirate movie ever made and borrowed a few more from jungle movies for good measure.

Starring Geena Davis (Harlin's wife, not so coincidentally), Matthew Modine in the anti-hero part Michael Douglas wisely turned down and Frank Langella (the plotting chief of staff in "Dave") as the evil uncle pirate, "Cutthroat Island" has so few redeeming qualities (short of being terribly fun to rip apart), that all I can do here is catalog the catastrophes that contributed to this bomb:

  • The aforementioned and ridiculously inaccurate exploding cannon balls.

  • Some of the worst super-imposed blue-screen special effects since weather men started standing in front of satellite shots on the local news.

  • The fact that "Cutthroat Island" is so busy trying to be clever that it doesn't even bother to introduce the bad guys other than to play ominous music when they walk into the frame.

  • Matte paintings that look like a second grader's art project.

  • The scene in which bad guy is woken up by squeaking floorboards -- while sleeping on the ground in the middle of a tropical island (I am not making this up).

  • Sound effects of an African lion's roar which accompany the cast's arrival on said island -- which is located in the Caribbean.

  • Battle scenes clearly shot over several days, where the film quality changes depending on the camera angle.

  • Exploding ship miniatures of a different color wood than the ship was in the shot just before it exploded. ("My ship made of balsa wood. It explode real nice," I piped up at the screening.)

    Enough said. I could go on for days because, to be honest, I loved hating this movie. But there are a dozen other films opening this Christmas weekend and any one of them would be better than "Cutthroat Island."

    This review appeared in the Daily Republic, Fairfield, CA.

    ©1995 All Rights Reserved.

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