Cutthroat Island is probably the best movie that no one saw
Renny Harlin is probably Hollywood's riskiest director. Usually, his movies make up for his budget and earn a profit. Look at Cliffhanger and Die Hard 2: Die Harder. Both were box offices hits. But sometimes directors produce movies that flop big time. And Cutthroat Island is one of the biggest flops in movie history. Which is too bad because this movie is very fun and exciting with a lot of special effects and stunts, and some of the best sets I have seen.
Cutthroat Island actually has a plot, despite what a lot of other critics say. It's about feared pirate Morgan Adams (Geena Davis) and her adventure on finding the lost treasure of Cutthroat Island. However, she needs three pieces of a map distributed among three brothers. Adams' father has one piece of the map, cleverly tatooed to his head (he dies and she scalps him and takes his ship). She also receives another part of the map from one of her uncles. Unfortunately, they realize that the words are latin and need a translator. They arrive at an island and find a prisoner (Matthew Modine) who can read latin but is to be sold to the highest bidder.
A huge action scene occurs, which I will explain later, and Adams and the prisoner are on their way to get her evil uncle's, Dawg (Frank Langella), part of the map. This is pretty much the entire plot, in a nutshell. It may be a little thin, but creates a perfect mood for outrageously, exciting aciton sequences. The dialogue can be cheesy at times, but some of it is actually funny. Thankfully, the movie doesn't go without humor (Adams' pet monkey has some cute and funny scenes). But the movie was made for big stunts and sets, and it entertains as it does so.
As for the action sequences, all I can really say is "Wow!" The technical production of this movie must have been extravagent because it shows in the periodic costumes and ships. I watched in awe at the set design of this movie. I watched it twice just to admire the work that went into the movie. The sets are colorful and bright, and the ships are full-size pirate ships made specifically for blowing up. And that's Harlin's motto: "If you build it, blow it up." In one of the most exciting scenes in the movie, a stagecoach, driven by Adams and the prisoner, races down a harbor, chased by the enemy. The coach has to turn to avoid a ceremony for the dead and veers onto a sidewalk. Adams, who is beating the bad guys off of the coach, has to jump onto the roof of a building, run up the roof, crash through a window, run through a bunch of shops, break through another window, and roll off of the roof, landing back on the coach! It may be impossible to believe, but it was spectacular.
Geena Davis, who I have always liked to watch, is very good as Morgan Adams. She made me believe that she was an actual pirate, leading her crew and blowing up stuff. Matthew Modine is quite good as the prisoner who becomes her love interest (if that wasn't avoidable). Frank Langella is ruthless, but almost hides his sadistic mind under a calm exterior. Almost, anyway. But Davis steals the show, along with her monkey, which is used for some cute moments that didn't have do be there, but they are, so live with it. And yes, that is Rex Linn (from Cliffhanger) in the crew with the tatooed face.
Cutthroat Island is rated PG-13. There is some language, but not much because of the period, but the killing and sword fighting may scare little children. There are some sexual innuendos as well, including a scene where she says, "I took your balls." (Don't expect me to explain) But the overall movie is exciting, and watching the ship blow up in the final scene of the movie gives you a giddiness that wants you to see it again. Well, from the box office reports, maybe it didn't.
***1/2 out of ****
Reviews by Boyd Petrie