Cutthroat Island

Tagline : The Course Has Been Set. There Is No Turning Back. Prepare Your Weapons. Summon Your Courage. Discover the Adventure of a Lifetime!

Runtime : 124 mins

Genre : Action Adventure

Vote Rating : 5.8/10

Budget : 98 million $ USD

Revenue : 10 million $ USD

Plot : Morgan Adams and her slave, William Shaw, are on a quest to recover the three portions of a treasure map. Unfortunately, the final portion is held by her murderous uncle, Dawg. Her crew is skeptical of her leadership abilities, so she must complete her quest before they mutiny against her. This is made yet more difficult by the efforts of the British crown to end her pirate raids.

Cast Members


Not as bad as it's notoriously condemned as being, but still clearly shows that both leads and the director were ill-advised (you know very well that if you were getting Harlin at that point in time, you were getting Davis--that's exactly why she probably married him). She brings her A-game and definitely tries her best but this just isn't her thing, and Modine's clearly not blockbuster star material for action films. A few of Harlin's set-pieces worked particularly well, but he pandered too much for his wife. That can work if you're, say, the Rossellinis and you're filming a drama set in Italy, but it's not working here, though I'll adore Davis to my dying day. I will add that this is my 13 year-old son's favourite films. Very curious if they would have made sequels had it not bombed--the ending sure was open-ended enough to give off that impression. This is one film that if you just sit back and enjoy the ride will offer you a guilty pleasure. Definitely worth a watch if you enjoy popcorn films or have children. Not as enjoyable as the first two 'Pirates of the Caribbean' releases, but better than their subsequent sequels.

***Fun pirate flick tries too hard to be heroic and panders to youngsters*** In 1668 a female pirate captain (Geena Davis) purchases an educated slave (Matthew Modine) to read a treasure map written in Latin and help her & crew find the priceless lucre on Cutthroat Island. Frank Langella plays her villainous uncle who’s also chasing the hidden loot. “Cutthroat Island” (1995) is a pirate adventure in the spirit of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981); it even has a cute monkey as a side character. It’s a fun adventure with several worthwhile scenes (you can check all the pirate staple boxes) and magnificent locations, but it doesn’t have the movie magic of “Raiders.” For one thing, it tries too hard to be larger-than-life valiant and thus goes over-the-top with the action scenes, like the escape from Port Royal where there’s a sequence of like seven explosions amidst other ridiculous goings-on. This isn’t helped by the blaring score that overdoes the heroic bit to the point of nausea. In other words, the movie annoyingly panders to children and lacks the confidence for a more adult-oriented, reality-based tone. If you want to see a rousing historical adventure like this done right, check out “The Musketeer” (2001). The cast is effective with Langella shining as the nefarious pirate rival while Modine is surprisingly good as a rogue turned hero. People complain about Geena’s performance, saying she was over her head and unconvincing, but she was the director’s wife and happily rose to the challenge, for the most part. Besides, who else could’ve pulled off the role better in 1994 when the film was shot? Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock are the only two that come to mind. Demi Moore might’ve worked, but she lacked the other three’s beaming smile, especially Geena’s big grin. But Geena & Modine needed a better script that made their characters more interesting. As it is, they’re just okay. And, despite my criticisms concerning the unbelievable and juvenile-focused heroics, the movie’s more realistic than any of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” flicks, probably because there’s no magical nonsense. The film runs 2 hour, 3 minutes and was shot in Fort Ricasoli, Kalkara, Malta (Port Royal); Thailand (the island footage); and England (studio). Speaking of Thailand, anyone who knows anything about geography KNOWS the flick wasn’t shot in the Caribbean, but rather Thailand. GRADE: C

I was born poor, I had no choice but to become a thief and a liar. Cutthroat Island is directed by Renny Harlin and written by Robert King and Marc Norman. It stars Geena Davis, Matthew Modine, Frank Langella, Maury Chaykin, Patrick Malahide, Stan Shaw and Rex Linn. Music is scored by John Debney and cinematography by Peter Levy. A film of many flaws, with a reputation akin to it being the devil of big budget failures, it is, however, a wonderful piece of piratical entertainment - that is if you are prepared to see past the monetary excess. Famously cited as the film that bankrupted Caroloco Pictures, the truth is that Carolco was going under anyway, the studio had filed for bankruptcy before Cutthroat Island had even been released, the box office performance was irrelevant, it wouldn't have made a bit of difference. And while no amount of hard sell marketing could have gotten the film to make back the $98 million spent making it, it received no support from distributor MGM who were in the process of being sold, so finances for marketing were not available. Harlin's movie has all the pirate movie ingredients crammed in to the plot, yet it is a standard plot that sees Davis as female pirate Morgan Adams who leads her charges on a quest to find the ultimate treasure hoard. Problem here is that the map is in three parts, each part held by separate people, one of which is Morgan's vicious Uncle Dawg (Langella). The hunt and race is on, and Harlin doesn't pause for breath, he's a kid in a sweet shop armed with wads of cash, but the money, as gargantuan as it is, is right there up on the screen - well except for the hiring of better actors that is... Two magnificent ships were built for the production and they "are" magnificent, the costumes, the sets, pyrotechnics, exotic locations (Malta and Thailand standing in for 1668 Jamaica), stunning sound editing and visual thrills, all high on value and all cloaked by a tremendously robust score from Debney. Action junkies are well served, with wild horse drawn carriage chases, sword fights aplenty, ships in side by side explosive battle, mucho perilous situations, bodies falling from heights or thrown in the sea, and we even get a comic relief simian! Who, as it turns out, is one of the best actors on show! It's hard to believe that a pirate action film such as this would not be better appreciated had it been released in the following decade, and I say that not just because of the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, but more so that the blunderbuss popcorn movie has had greater support these days. There's a good portion of the movie loving faithful who just want to be entertained, where rapid thrills are a requisite, not well drawn characterisations and thespian class. Judged on those terms then Cutthroat Island is a winner for sure. Main problems are the clunky script and the three pronged miscast errors in the lead roles. Davis (erm, wife of Harlin) is full of guts, really attacking the material with gusto, but she never convinces, it always feels like a caricature and she's uncomfortable delivering key lines. She would prove herself a fine action actress a year later with The Long Kiss Goodnight (also with Harlin directing), but she's woefully out of place here. With Davis demanding more and more screen time for her character, the role of Shaw began to thin out, which was too much to bear for Michael Douglas who bowed out late in the day. In came Matthew Modine, zero chemistry with Davis, a bland acting style and as far removed from the period setting as you could get. Langella just isn't menacing as the main villain of the piece, a very good actor in the right role, but not here and some of his attempts at nastiness feel like panto season has started early. So problems for sure, but wade through some of the misconceptions and poisonous press and you will find a film desperately aiming to please you, and with that there is much on offer for the pirate movie fan to savour. 7/10

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