What do you get when you take a generic heist movie and add thousands of gallons of water? 'Hard Rain.'
Christian Slater is Tom, an armored car guard looking for something more in his life. His partner is a veteran in the business, as well as his Uncle Charlie (Ed Asner). Jim (Morgan Freeman) leads a band of bungling criminals who are looking to rob the armored truck when it gets stuck in the flood that's engulfing the town. Rain pours in, levees break, the small town is knee-deep in cold river water; a perfect time to break into a stranded armored truck.
Jim's gang of standard criminals – the brain, the wild card, the muscle – are hell bent on stealing the apparently three million dollars that is in Tom's armored truck. Tom, being the righteous, dutiful protagonist, can't let this happen, risking life and limb for a job he doesn't really like.
As the movie rushes along, the town fills slowly with more and more water. There isn't a time where the actors appear to be dry, although they never look all that cold. You would think hypothermia would be a problem with cold river and rain water, but no matter, it's as if they're swimming around in the tropics the entire time.
Tom slogs and sloshes through waist-deep water as Jim and his gang chase him in boats and jet-skis. He meets a local woman played by Minnie Driver. Her job: The Damsel in Distress. Everything about this movie is so unoriginal. Marveling about how it was filmed is about the only thing that really kept me interested.
Director Mikael Salomon and his staff create a very believable flooded locale. How hard it must have been to get certain shots and angles is fun to think about. The jet-ski chase through the hallways of a local school is exciting and must have taken a lot of time and energy to plan. The opening tracking shot across a flooded Midwest plain, down into the town is a great shot, even though you can clearly see where CG effects were added into the mix. Technically, 'Hard Rain' is a success. The story and character department is where everything falls flat.
Speaking of flat, the characters are the definition of one-dimensional. Even Freeman's character – essentially the same gang leader he played in the insufferable 'The Contract' – has a one track mind. He must get that money. It's all so contrived you wonder why the venerable Morgan Freeman, the same man who just played Nelson Mandela, chooses roles in films like 'Hard Rain.'
Is 'Hard Rain' a complete loss, no I wouldn't say so. It's got some exciting action, Minnie Driver in a wet shirt (if that's what you're into), and Randy Quaid being, well, Randy Quaid. It's one of those films that would be right at home as the Saturday Afternoon Movie on a non-descript cable channel.
'Hard Rain's 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC-encoded picture turns out a little better than I would have thought it would.
Released in 1998, the film has aged pretty well, and its transfer over into high-def is a decent one. The entire film, except for the occasional lighted interior shot, takes place in the dark. Blacks, while not infinitely inky at times, are still strong and consistent. Delineation is revealing, and in a film this dark it has to be or the entire video transfer would be ruined. Detail isn't overly visible, some slight softness persists throughout, but it isn't something that detracts from viewing. White specks and blips pop up rather frequently, but again it isn't much of a distraction in the grander scheme of things.
All in all, this video transfer gives 'Hard Rain' a fair representation of the overall darkness of the film. It isn't going to blow you away with its visuals, but you won't be able to find much to complain about either.
While it's hard to belittle the choice of a 7.1 track for any Blu-ray, 'Hard Rain' is an odd choice to single out for this treatment.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 lossless audio track accompanying the film is fairly engaging throughout, but it doesn't quite hit the sonic stratosphere we've come to expect from a 7.1 offering.
The surrounds are lively though, with a constant stream of falling rain. LFE is vigorous and energetic, roaring to life with low rumbling from thunder, outboard boat motors, and jet-skis. Dialogue is clearly defined, and the musical score is nicely distributed throughout the channels to give an encompassing feel.
'Hard Rain' really misses out on the special features front. A making-of documentary about how the filmmakers worked with water all around them would have been interesting.
As silly and generic as 'Hard Rain' is, it can still provide a certain level of enjoyment, even if it's to make fun of it while watching. The audio and video portions were a pleasant surprise, even if the choice to bring 'Hard Rain' to Blu-ray right now is a perplexing one. Still, I'll give it a rental recommendation. Even with the nice video and audio, I still couldn't recommend anyone actually buy 'Hard Rain.' That would be robbery.