Hard Rain is really an action heist movie set against the backdrop of a very soggy flood. This late 90’s movie plays with the phrase ‘the enemy of my enemy is also my friend’ as characters switch allegiance during a bank van robbery. Hard Rain is a perfectly harmless and good romp that fits the cheesy but fun section of a Spring Blockbuster.
The disasters faced
A robbery filled with incompetent crew members, corrupt police forces, an awful lot of rain, a dam that is desperate to break, electrocution, crucifixes and a bear trap setting granny!
Tom and his Uncle Charlie are busy clearing out the banks vault as part of their delivery run. The town of Huntingburg is besieged with a flood due to crazy amounts of rain. Everyone is being evacuated and the bank is closing down, fearing the worst as the dam up stream is on high alert for overflowing. Tom and Charlie get stuck in a giant watery ditch with $3 million in the back of the van and call for help.
Enter Jim, leader of a band of robbers to intercept their call and come to steal the money. Jim is cool, calm and collected but his crew are all a bit weird. Ray talks in bible quotes. Kenny is too younger and nervous to do anything but cause issues. Mr Mehlor is the brains and tech guy. Between them they attempt to take the $3 million, killing Charlie in the process. Tom, escapes, taking the $3 million with him and hiding it in the town.
The gang chase after Tom, who must be wishing for overtime pay by this point, around a school on water jet skis and when he finally escapes them, he hides in a church that has been well sandbagged up from the storm. Unfortunately, that is where he gets a crucifix to the head by a Karen. This was 1998 but wow how that scene in writing makes for the perfect Karen meme today. Karen has stayed behind to ‘save the church’ but really its so Tom and Karen can bond over mutual escape from death moments and fall in love.
Karen gets Tom arrested as she assumes he is there to rob her. This introduces us fully to the police team who have been evacuating the area early in the film. Sheriff Mike seems nice enough and Phil is a giant puppy dog only interested in Karen. However Wayne seems inherently sinister and Hank, who looks after the dam, seems like a jerk. Upon hearing of the $3 million, the policemen go off after it leaving Tom locked in the cell. Unfortunately, Hank releases loads of water from the dam to stop it breaking and that causes the police station to flood. Thankfully Karen remembers Tom is still trapped there and gets to rescue him just in time.
The problem with that is that Jim and the robbers have caught wind of Tom’s escapades and track him down but not before Kenny gets electrocuted to death and the robbers take two elderly bear trap setters hostage first. Doreen and long suffering hubby Henry decided to stay behind and set traps for looters because in the last flood they were ransacked. This time, when Karen and Tom broke into their home to escape Kenny and the electrocution disco – Doreen and Henry were ready!
Tom agrees to show them where the money is if they let Doreen and Henry go. When he arrives at the spot, we find not only are the robbers there but so are the policemen, ready and waiting. Instead of arresting the robbers, Mike, Wayne and Hank decide to go rogue – resulting in Mike saying one of the best lines in action film history. They decide to kill the robbers and Tom and split the money themselves, dragging spineless Phil along for the ride and using Karen as kidnap bait.
In what becomes the wettest cop vs robbers battle, Tom and Jim, previously sworn enemies now have to team up to survive against cops who have more gunpower than they do. The battle rages as they return back to the church just in time for the dam to break. Will Tom be able to fend off everyone, save Karen and stay alive? Will Jim stick with Tom even though he is a crook? Are all the policemen in this film dodgy? You’ll be guessing up to the end.
Why is it worth watching?
Hard Rain embodies that mid 1990’s cheesy action flick mood. Characters are ready to dish out one liners and fit silly personas with ease. You aren’t going to find anything life changing here but you will be entertained. That goes from the action to the acting to the special effects and plot. The movie enjoys being just barmy enough to be a b-movie but with a Hollywood budget and that’s what I love most about it.
The action sequences are well performed and the sheer amount of water on set is exciting and impressive. The church in particular looks superb as it slowly descends into a chaos and ruin across the movie. Then outside, the water ripples and makes waves impressively. There are a fair few interesting stunts too although some verge on music video slow motion too much.
There are a few oddball moments too which give the film character. Doreen and Henry are the comic relief and they milk that for the scenes they are in. It feels like they’ve walked in off a late 80’s Arnie movie. Then you’ll have Karen throw down a gun in slow motion as if she’s making some horrible protest about violence after shooting someone in the face. In fact – I think Karen kills more people than anyone else in the movie which I found quite funny!
Just enjoy the relaxed, take it sleazy tone, special effects and disconnect your brain – you’ll have much more of a fun time with the movie than if you think about any of it.
The water and fire effects are really well put together and everything holds up today except for some of the shots on the final set piece. Karen’s house gets swept away in the dam busting flood and it looks like a cute model in some shots. Thankfully, we cut to them flying around on the roof quickly after and that’s all good fun. This films approach to practical first, computerised stuff in a very minimal second means its barely aged at all.
Here is where Hard Rain makes gains. The characters are all one dimensional but they are to a beautiful fault. Tom is noble but mouthy. Karen is stubborn and resourceful. Together they flirt using sarcasm and shifty eyes but it strangely works. Sargent Mike, played by the ever watchable Randy Quaid, shouts, screams and bellows his way through every scene he is in. He looks like he wants to spit on everyone and its hilarious. Everyone else is like a thinly veiled comic book villain and they never change. I did like how both sides had a weak link with Kenny and Phil. Both were just kids caught up in others worlds and they seemed like gullible idiots but both fated to have that be their downfall too.
For twenty years, I’ve been eating shit; breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So now I’m changing the menu. From here on, everything I eat is gonna be shit-free!sheriff mike deciding that he’ll be ordering ala carte from now on with his share of $3 million
Three memorable moments
- That quote above and the sudden about turn and changing of the game. Greedy!
- Tom trapped in the police cell trying to escape as the water rises is excellently put together.
- Henry telling wife Doreen to ‘Shut the fuck up!’ and then turning their boat around telling her he will give her back to the robbers so they can shoot her!
The obligatory weird moment
I’ve always found the ending of the movie slightly frustrating and confusing and its something that Morgan Freeman has apparently spoken about as well. This is end scene spoilers so skip ahead if you don’t want to know what happens.
You’ve been warned!
At the end of the movie, Jim, the surviving robber, escapes with some of the money whilst Tom and Karen just stand there being arrested as the sole survivors of the cops vs robbers battles. Apparently, according to Morgan Freeman he was meant to die and did so originally. Instead, the test screenings had a negative reaction to this and they suggested he should live and get some money for helping save Tom and Karen in the end. Morgan Freeman has since gone on to say he dislikes the movie, Minnie Driver (Karen) said she hated working on it and Christian Slater (Tom) ended up in arrested for drug misuse the day after the premiere. Who knew the film would be so hard for three of its four lead cast members huh?
The drinking game
Here, you can take a drink for each witty (or otherwise) one liner the cast members come out with. This is definitely a movie from the school of cheesy eye rolls.
I’m sure there are plenty of people who dislike this movie. It is dumb, silly, has some weird tonal shifts and comes off as a big budget b-movie that didn’t know what it was. To me, that makes Hard Rain retain an individual charm that makes it entertaining because of its flaws and faults. It never sits still and bends over backwards to keep you interested. Whilst its 80’s throw back script will be marmite to the audience, I found it strangely endearing. A good egg.
Rating – 4 / 5 – Great
If you enjoyed Hard Rain then you may also like…
- The Rains Came – 1937 Black & White classic of flood season in India.
- The Hurricane Heist – Sky Movies first big movie follows this movies template exactly.
- Flood! – Irwin Allen’s made for TV camp-fest is good fun and very soggy.