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Featured Blu-ray Review: Hard Rain

February 7th, 2010

Hard Rain - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

Part of a wave of releases from Paramount / Lionsgate hitting High Definition this week, Hard Rain was first released in 1998 and was neither a financial nor a critical success. In fact, it was one of the most expensive flops of the year. (The only film to open in 1998 that cost more and made less was Soldier.) Given this, expectations are rather low, but how well does it live up to them?

The film takes place in a small Midwestern town threatened by record floods. The townsfolk are evacuated, mostly, but the sheriff and his deputies are staying behind to make sure everyone clears out. Some, however, are a little more determined to stay, like Karen, who is restoring the local church, and Doreen and Henry, who have lived through floods in the past and are more worried about looters than water damage. Into this storm drive Tom and his uncle Charlie, armored truck drivers who are driving to all of the banks that are threatened by the flood and picking up the cash. This proves too much of a temptation for a gang of robbers led by Jim, but when things don’t go as planned, he has to chase Tom through the flood. And then the Sheriff decides he'd rather keep the money than turn in the bad guys...

Water is bad. At least when it comes to making movies. It is expensive to work with, as a large part of the $70 million production budget was spent creating the massive flood tanks needed to film the movie. It is also difficult to work with both for the actors and from a technical standpoint, which means there are limitations on what you can do. Thirdly, it just is not that exciting. I don't know how long the average viewer can handle watching people getting soaked in the rain, but it's not 96 minutes, and I (nearly) guarantee that. On a side note, this is a loud movie with a lot of noise in nearly every scene. This means that the actors are shouting over the noise most of the time, which makes it hard for them to act. But since there's little in the way of character development, there's little need for acting either. This movie is a string of action scenes that grow tiresome quite quickly.

One final note, some of the special effects in this movie look terrible. It wasn't made that long ago, but I guess in 1998 digital effects were still in their infancy. I noticed this more in the beginning, but I'm not sure if this was because the shots early in the movie were worse, or by the last half of the movie I no longer cared. And returning to the notion that water is bad from a filmmaking standpoint ... Water and miniatures don't mix. The way water moves is so recognizable that it gives away scale.

As for extras on the Blu-ray, there are none. There's the original trailer and you can set bookmarks, but I hardly count those. On the technical side, the video is acceptable for a catalogue release of a movie that bombed in theaters more than a decade ago. Most of the movie takes place at night, in the rain, with inadequate lighting. This is a recipe for dark and murky photography, which is not the best way to show off High Definition. As for the audio, I would describe it as loud. Not good, just loud.

The Verdict

I see this as a $10 Blu-ray. It is a catalogue release of a second tier action movie that was never a hit to begin with. It has no extras and doesn't shine on High Definition. Even if you are a fan of Hard Rain, it is hard to recommend spending more than $10 on this release. Sadly, it is currently $15 on Amazon, but I bet it will be in the $10 bin in some Brick and Mortar stores before too long.

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