Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
"Hard Rain" is one of those movies that never convince you its stories are really happening. From beginning to end, I was acutely aware of actors being paid to stand in cold water. Suspension of my disbelief in this case would have required psychotropic medications.
Oh, the film is well-made from a technical viewpoint. The opening shot is a hum-dinger, starting out with a vast floodplain, zooming above houses surrounded by water, and then ending with a closeup of a cop's narrowing eyes. But even then, I was trying to spot the effects--to catch how they created the flood effect, and how they got from the flood to the eyes.
Funny, how some movies will seduce you into their stories while others remain at arm's length. "Titanic" was just as artificial and effects-driven as "Hard Rain," and yet I was spellbound. Maybe it was because the people on the doomed ship had no choice: The Titanic was sinking, and that was that.
In "Hard Rain," there is a bad guy (Morgan Freeman) who has a choice. He wants to steal some money, but all during the film I kept wondering why he didn't just give up and head for dry ground. How much of this ordeal was he foolish enough to put up with? Water, cold, rain, electrocutions, murders, shotguns, jet-ski attacks, drownings, betrayals, collisions, leaky boats, stupid and incompetent partners, and your fingertips shrivel up: Is it worth it? The film opens in a town being evacuated because of rising flood waters. There's a sequence involving a bank. At first we think we're witnessing a robbery, and then we realize we are witnessing a pickup by an armored car. What's the point? Since the bankers don't think they're being robbed and the armored truck drivers don't think they're robbing them, the sequence means only that the director has gone to great difficulty to fool us. Why? So we can slap our palms against our brows and admit we were big stupes? By the time we finally arrived at the story, I was essentially watching a documentary about wet actors at work. Christian Slater stars as one of the armored truck crew. Randy Quaid is the ambiguous sheriff. Morgan Freeman is the leader of the would-be thieves, who have commandeered a power boat. Ah, but I hear you asking, why was it so important for the armored car to move the cash out of the bank before the flood? So Freeman's gang could steal it, of course. Otherwise, if it got wet, hey, what's the Federal Reserve for? Minnie Driver plays a local woman who teams up with Slater, so that they can fall in love while saving each other from drowning. First Slater is in a jail cell that's about to flood, and then Driver is handcuffed to a staircase that's about to flood, and both times I was thinking what rotten luck it was that "Hard Rain" came so soon after the scene in "Titanic" where Kate Winslet saved Leonardo DiCaprio from drowning after he was handcuffed on the sinking ship. It's bad news when a big action scene plays like a demonstration of recent generic techniques.