The folks in Grand Forks can be forgiven if they don’t find “Hard Rain” very entertaining.
A flooded Indiana town is the setting of the movie, and the effects are startlingly vivid, including the frustrating spectacle of a fire raging in the middle of a sea of brown water. Grand Forksians may have a been there/been-doused-by-that reaction to these scenes, but the rest of us are likely to feel that “Hard Rain” is showing us spectacles we’ve never seen at the movies.
Not the least of these is Christian Slater as a likable, normal guy (the movie, which was originally scheduled for last summer, was shot before he snorted his way into the slammer). Slater’s a security man trapped in a flood with a big pile of cash. He hides it and is pursued through the town’s now-Olympic-sized streets by a band of marauders led by Morgan Freeman. Most of the movie is Slater trying to elude a growing pool of bad guys and worse guys, accompanied by Minnie Driver (taking a stab at the American accent she later perfected for “Good Will Hunting,” but if she’s from Indiana, I’m from Liverpool).
Slater has a high old time piloting a Jet Ski through flooded city streets and making a Houdini-like escape from a jail cell that’s filling with water.
Although it looks like a disaster movie in the ads, “Hard Rain” isn’t. Disaster fans may find the awesome-power-of-nature shots a bit stingy, because the dam-burst scene that you knew they had to include isn’t all that special.
What’s more interesting about “Hard Rain” is its willingness - eagerness, actually - to blur the line between good guys and bad guys. It starts with Freeman, who brings dignity and compassion to a role that would usually be overplayed by someone like Dennis Hopper.
It’s a surprise to see Freeman on the wrong side of the law, but that sight prepares us for all manner of gleeful flip-flopping on the issue of what’s right and what’s wrong in the face of catastrophe. Everyone in “Hard Rain” is acting in his or her own self-interest, and those interests only occasionally coincide with the public interest.
Not that you should expect “Hard Rain” to be a Dostoevskian examination of the nature of evil. It’s just a dopey, cheesily entertaining “ride” movie that is so wet your fingers will be puckered when you exit the theater.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “HARD RAIN” Location: East Sprague, Lyons, Post Falls, Showboat Credits: Directed by Mikael Salomon, starring Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater, Minnie Driver Running time: 1:38 Rating: R