Cutthroat Island alternated between boring me and thrilling me. While entertaining, the plot and characters are overshadowed by the breathtaking scenery and the stunts that will make you say “How did they do that?”
The film tells the story of lady pirate Morgan Adams, played by Geena Davis. She spends the film racing to piece together a map to Cutthroat Island before her uncle Dog Adams – played to perfection by a wonderful Frank Langella – beats her to the treasure buried there. Matthew Modine plays the requisite love interest and petty thief who Davis takes on-board to help her decipher the map. Tavern brawls and barrels of gunpowder abound as Davis and Modine attract danger and explosions like buried treasure attracts pirates.
Unfortunately, the plot began to drag and I never really became involved with the characters. Davis’ dialogue was incredibly forced, and she appeared painfully uncomfortable as a tough-girl. Modine was good as comic relief and, thankfully, he never tried to over-step his bounds. He stayed securely comical when he could have tried to emulate Rambo. As mentioned before, Langella was masterful. Dog Adams oozed evil from every pore and this character was the only one I really cared about. Langella lent credibility to every scene he was in.
There’s no doubt, Cutthroat Island is a beautiful film. The scenery is stunning and the director takes advantage of it with swooping camera pans and original angles. You can almost smell the money spent to make this film. Some of the stunts will leave you breathless, and there were more than a few that I’m still trying to figure out. With predictable regularity, every 20 minutes or so there’s a scene designed to gross the audience out – it’s amazing how many things you can do with rotting flesh. Most all the deficiencies in the film, however, are made up for in the climatic battle at sea, which is one of the better action sequences in recent memory.
I spent Cutthroat Island waiting for something to happen that would suck me in and make me care. I was still waiting when the film ended. Fortunately, Cutthroat Island redeems itself in the last 30 minutes…just barely.