Film review: Cutthroat Island (1995), directed by Renny Harlin
Made before Pirates of the Caribbean made pirate films cool again, is this film, widely regarded as a flop. Because it was. When pirate Black Harry (Harris Yulin) dies, his Morgan (Geena Davis) is left with a piece of a treasure map. Her two uncles have the other two. In order to find the Biggest Treasure Ever on the legendary Cutthroat Island, she needs the other two pieces, and she needs her own map translating, so she comes across lying, thieving Shaw (Matthew Modine), who at least claims to know Latin.
Together with a crew full of pirates, a ship, a cutlass and a pet monkey, Morgan has to try and find the island and the treasure, especially since evil uncle Dawg (Frank Langella) is hot on her trail.
What follows is a pirate adventure with enough explosions to make me double-check if it wasn’t directed by Michael Bay. (It wasn’t. It’s by Renny Harlin, who is Finnish.)
Also stARRRRing Maury Chaykin, Patrick Malahide, Stan Shaw, Rex Linn, Paul Dillon, Chris Masterson and Jimmie F Skaggs.
There are people who will argue on the Internet about whether or not the Pirates of the Caribbean films ripped off Cutthroat Island. Because, err, there are pirates, a big hoard of gold, explosions, and … well, basically anything that’s a general recipe for a pirate film. If you like spectacular adventure films, this is it!
Sadly, some of the acting is very flat, and the special effects have not aged well – when Morgan is thrown backwards down in a tavern, you can see the greenish tint of bad green screen work. My spontaneous thought there was “oh dear” and I wasn’t expecting it to get better. To be fair, the rest of the stunts are good, and the explosions are … explosive.
There are a lot of explosions in this film. If anything can go boom, it will. If I had a quid for every time something blew up, I could easily buy a KFC bucket, and I don’t mean the value one. Like I pointed out earlier, I had to double-check that the film wasn’t directed by Michael Bay – it was that explosive. So, if you like explosions … Actually, I like watching a good film explosion, but you can have a bit too much of the good stuff as well.
But overall, it’s a big adventure, if not providing as many chuckles as Jack Sparrow and crew, but it’s fun to see a woman at the helm of a pirate ship and kicking ass. Just a shame she’s just about the only female in the film who has a speaking role. Sausage-fest, anyone? Well, at least there are a few good-looking guys in there, like Modine, to name but one.
Overall, it’s an action-packed pirate flick about treasure maps, buried treasures, ships, pirate rivalry and all that, but it feels very standard. If you’ve seen one pirate film, you’ve seen them all, is the feeling I’m left with. Still, I can’t deny being entertained …
3 out of 5 handcuffs.