This Indiana smalltown is about to be waterlogged as torrential rain sees to it that the dam that keeps the place safe is unable to ensure the water stays out. With the flood on the way, the town is evacuated, or so the Sheriff (Randy Quaid) would like to think as he waves off the mayor while muttering "Asshole!" under his breath, but then there's the elderly couple, the Sears (Richard Dysart and Betty White), determined to stay because they're worried about looters. Meanwhile, two people happy to leave are security drivers Tom (Christian Slater) and his uncle Charlie (Edward Asner), escorting three million dollars from the bank - or so they hope...
It was high concept thriller time again from screenwriter Graham Yost, so to go along with bomb on the bus (Speed) and stolen nuclear weapons (Broken Arrow), here was a heist in watery situation. Alas, this may have been one high concept too far, as Hard Rain flopped pretty badly in cinemas, dogged by rumours of extensive messing around to fashion it into a thriller instead of one of the plain old disaster movie revivals of the nineties. However, over the years it has become a staple of late night television schedule fillers, and while it's nobody's favourite action film, it has gained a following of the "Hey, this isn't too bad!" variety.
If nothing else, this was a mighty technical achievement, a project where almost every scene involves the cast and presumably crew getting absolutely soaked - it must have been a real ordeal to shoot, especially as it also takes place mostly at night. So you do end up respecting the filmmakers for their dedication even if you're not too hot on what the results of all that hard work turned out to be, but if this simply took yet another heist plot from a decade full of them and decked it out in a novel setting, then the professionalism was something to be admired, the odd lapse in story logic forgiven.
Like could all those guns really fire when they'd been submerged in water for so long? But you had to accept that there would be liberties taken as there are with all action movies, and enjoy the selection of great escapes that Yost conjured up for his cast. Our apparent villain is Jim, played by Morgan Freeman, so for a start an actor so identified with dignity and integrity in the bad guy part might not have sat too well with audiences. But this is more interested in the degrees of villainy that shade the characters, so here there are those who look all bad, but have a redeeming feature, and those who look all good, but admit to a moment of weakness when it comes to doing the right thing.
Jim heads a gang who are out to steal the three million dollars, and when the bank van gets stuck in the flood, they see their opportunity and descend upon Tom and Charlie, leaving one trigger happy hood shooting the latter dead. Tom manages to get away and hide the loot, but the would-be robbers cannot kill him because only he knows its location, thereby setting up the rest of the film that is more chase than anything else. If it plays out with few true surprises, the twists and turns granted, then the fact that it was generic was lifted by images that would not ordinarily fill a whole movie - one setpiece, perhaps, but not the full ninety minutes. Showing up for the (boat) ride was Minnie Driver whose Karen is restoring the local church and wishes to keep it free from as much damage as possible, so you can guess how successful that is, but she worked a little magic with the conventional "save me" role. Indeed, everyone did surprisingly well here considering the circumstances: Hard Rain was no classic, but it was solid entertainment. Music by Christopher Young.