Rated R - Running time: 1:37 - Released 1/16/98

This is a wet movie. Everybody in it from the beginning to the end is completely soaked to the skin and standing (or swimming) in the pouring rain. In the case of some of the supporting cast, the water seems to dissolve their acting ability, but for the four principals, Christian Slater, Morgan Freeman, Minnie Driver, and Randy Quaid, their characterizations are waterproof. Also, director Mikael Salomon must be congratulated for pulling this off despite the incredible difficulties of filming in a huge, flooded airplane hangar where the set was reportedly built. One can imagine the problems and dangers that would arise from power cables, cameras and lighting equipment that will malfunction if they get wet, etc. Not to mention everyone in the cast and crew probably ended up with raisins for fingertips.

At the film's opening, a small town called Huntingburg, Indiana, is being flooded by constant rain and therefore evacuated by its sheriff (Quaid). But just as the evacuation is being completed, an armored truck with all the bank's money gets stuck in the rising water. When the driver, Charlie (Edward Asner), and his partner and nephew Tom (Slater) call for help on their radio, the transmission is intercepted by a band of looters headed by Jim (Morgan Freeman), who then slog into town to get the goods. Before you know it, Charlie's been shot, and Tom is swimming away into the darkness to hide the booty.

Meanwhile, a woman named Karen (Driver) is trying to save her recently restored stained-glass windows of the local church by attempting to pump the water out of the sandbagged churchyard. She meets Tom, who has come in out of the rain, but she thinks he's a looter so she clocks him on the head with a crucifix and takes him to the sheriff's office. After he is locked in the holding cell, he begins telling his story about the real looters. Soon all are involved in a soppy cat and mouse game, and it becomes unclear who is on whose side.

There are plenty of thrills and chills in this movie written by Graham Yost, and plenty of believable characters, too. Driver is not only a delightful actress, but her American accent is so flawless, one would have no idea she was British if one didn't know it from her other appearances. Slater and Freeman, at first enemies, are able to form a believable bond when they are presented with a common problem. Quaid is also good as the man depended on by so many he reaches the breaking point.

The effects are well-crafted, with the water constantly advancing, as inches turn to feet and then to tens of feet. As it approaches the tops of telephone poles, power lines are inundated, transformers begin to blow, and houses separate from their foundations. All this, to Salomon's credit, makes for a heightened sense of the desperation felt by the characters.

I'm not usually a fan of action/adventure movies, because they seem to consistently lack real characterization and plot. But this is one of the best I've seen lately, because it has plenty of both. ****

Copyright 1998 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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