a critiQal film review Cutthroat Island (1995)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: After the death of her father, a female pirate captain (Davis) discovers part of a map that leads to an island with a hidden pirate treasure. Now, all she has to do is get the final piece of the map from the very person she's trying to avoid: her murderous uncle Dawg (Langella), who isn't about to share the treasure with her.

458 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 17s)

Geena Davis. She’s kind of disappeared from the public eye since her brief stint as President in “Commander in Chief”, but that wasn’t the first out-of-the box role for her. Back in the mid-90’s she was memorable for being a female pirate captain (again breaking stereotypes) in Cutthroat Island. Unfortunately, that received a chillier reception than even “Commander in Chief”, as it holds the record for the being the biggest box office flop of all time.

Despite that, however, I still wanted to take a look at Cutthroat Island. Was it more than just it’s cheesy trailer, or were moviegoers in ’95 on the right track when they avoided this thing like the plague? When I discovered it was available on NetFlix®, I decided now was the perfect time to find out.

Dating the director does lead to plush roles, and Geena probably jumped at the chance to star in Cutthroat Island with her soon-to-be husband Renny Harlin at the helm. Sadly, though, she should have looked a bit more before leaping, as she doesn’t quite manage to pull of the dashing derring-do viewers are looking for in her pirate captain. Instead, she looks to be a bit under-qualified for the part, and Kiera Knightley was easily able to overcome her in her own little pirate adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003).

The comparisons between Cutthroat Island and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) don’t stop there. Matthew Modine is a far cry from the entertaining – yet surprisingly swashbuckling – Orlando Bloom (with Modine’s comedic attempts mostly falling flat), and Frank Langella’s Dawg, though entertaining, isn’t quite the multi-layered personality of Geoffrey Rush’s Captain Barbossa. And there’s not even someone in Cutthroat Island for Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow.

The storyline is similar, with everyone chasing after a legendary treasure, but Cutthroat Island manages to make the chase seem, not quite dull, but, well, simplistic – plodding it’s way through from point A to point B without much deviation.

The explosions are what Renny Harlin seems to have spent all that money on, and they are rather spectacular – but without the interest in the characters, the explosions aren’t exciting, even if they are fun to watch. He should have spent more time polishing the rest of the film. After all, he did also direct Die Hard 2 (1990), another actioneer that managed to combined story, explosions and comedic one-liners together much more effectively.

With a lot more polishing, Cutthroat Island could have been to it’s decade what Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) was to the 00’s. Instead, we’re given an overly long pirate adventure that doesn’t quite live up to expectations. On the other hand, it’s not the worst film out there either, so it doesn’t quite deserve the beating at the box office that it was handed.

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