Hard Rain (1998)
Directed by: Mikael Salomon
Starring: Christian Slater, Morgan Freeman, Minnie Driver, Randy Quaid, Ed Asner, Richard Dysart, Betty White
One could argue that Hard Rain shouldn’t be called a disaster movie because, plotwise, the disaster is incidental to the heist thriller. But since there is barely a scene in the entire movie where the pouring rain and the flooding of the town don’t play an integral part, I think it deserves to be included in the genre.
Rain (and apparently a hard one, at that) is pouring down on the small town of Huntingsburg, and the water is threatening to overwhelm the dam overlooking the town. Two armored truck guards, played by Christian Slater and Ed Asner, pick up three million dollars at the bank, but as they attempt to leave, their truck gets stuck on the flooded road. Enter Morgan Freeman and his henchmen who are after the money. After Ed Asner accidentally gets shot and killed, Slater hides the money. Freeman & co. hunts him through the flooded town — but when they finally get to him, it turns out a third, and quite unexpected, party is also out to get the cash. At which point the waters finally break through the dam…
As you can tell, the main plot is simple enough, and while it won’t win any awards for originality, it does its job. But what makes the movie quite fun to watch is a) a very appealing cast, and b) the incessant flooding. From the opening shot onward, the water is constantly rising. This gives us an excuse to enjoy stuff like a water scooter chase inside a flooded high school, and Christian Slater nearly drowning inside a jail cell. It also gives the filmakers an excuse to have Slater and Minnie Driver flirting with each other as they float through town in a flooded car, hiding from the criminals who just tried to kill them, which is a bit too silly even in a film like this.
You could (and many have) criticize this film for sloppily written characters and unconvincing coincidences and twists, and you would not be wrong. But on the other hand, you have to hand it to director Solomon (also Aftershock: Earthquake in New York) and his team that the flood effects are really well done. Apparently, a large set of Huntingsburg was built in a warehouse and then flooded. From a disaster movie point-of-view, that makes up for a lot. Just don’t take it too seriously, and you’ll be fine.