Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday Movie Theater: Cutthroat Island (1995)

Old but gold

After side-lining this posting series for almost 20 months since the review on the gore flick "Darah" (2009) in late September 2013, Sunday Movie Theater returns with a good old pirate movie that has nothing to do with the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise. ^^

Movie poster is from IMDB.

Like the usual reviews on model kits and collectibles, I think I'll need to keep the writing in this series shorter now, so that I won't go on and on about the details and exhaust myself everytime I talk about the movies I enjoy. ^^

Trailer of the movie.
Video clip is from Youtube. Follow this link to the website if you can't see anything.

"Cutthroat Island", a 1995 movie directed by Renny Harlin. Technical movie details can be seen on IMDB, while the entire story is up on the movie's Wikipedia page.

Following the usual tropes set by most pirate-themed movies, you can find elements such as treasure hunt, gold, pirate ships, sea battles, searching for clues and deciphering them, forging of allies, mutinies, lot of fighting using cutlass and pistols, sending prisoners to the gallows, arrogant government officers who always get the short end of the sticks in dealing with duelling pirate clans, prisoner rescue, and others in "Cutthroat Island". ^^ Arguably, with the presence and usage of said "regular" pirate-themed movie tropes, the movie isn't too special or memorable at all, but I think that all the elements were very well incorporated into the story to create a really enjoyable action-packed pirate movie. ^^

Despite being a "typical" pirate-themed movie, one setting does make "Cutthroat Island" stand out on its own: having a female lead, Morgan Adams (played by Geena Davis) who was written as a capable ship captain, but not in a sexualized way. She took command of her father's ship and rallied the pirate crews to follow her on a treasure hunt. She lead from the front and fought valiantly against her ruthless uncle, Dawg Brown (played by Frank Langella). While their numbers are few and far between, strong, independent female leads can be seen in movies, but it's still refreshing to have one in a pirate movie, and for one that came out in the 90s to feature such characterization, "Cutthroat Island" is quite memorable in that aspect. ^^

In contrast to the special point of Morgan being a female pirate captain, the rest of her crew fit the "preset" character molds for them nicely, and "typically". XD Some of the more prominent side characters around Morgan include a loyal second-in-command, a muscle dude, a young lad with small built to show that strength is not everything in combat, a disgruntled crew who eventually mutinied against her, and of course a somewhat prince charming-type male "lead" who is also a scoundrel for a bit of romance to be included into the story. ^^ . On that note, another interesting character design point that I like very much about this movie is the assignment of "matching" rivals among Morgan's crew members for those on the villain's side. While the fight between the two opposing ship captain serves as the main storyline, the minor fights between the different side characters serve as interesting plot points to follow as well, even though their fights are mostly limited to short-lived combats.

Of all the characters, I actually like the villain the best. ^^ Frank Langella did amazingly well in his portrayal as Morgan's arch-rival. His display of ruthlessness, even to his own crew members is full frontal throughout the whole movie. Having such a maniacal, yet determined villain as Morgan's enemy not only made the movie engaging to watch, it made her display of courage and skills more believable in the context of the movie as well.

Speaking of which, Dawg's cutlass which featured serrated edge for its blade is quite an evil design that reflects its master's characteristic very accurately. When I first watched the movie many years back, I really like that sword design. ^^

As mentioned earlier on, even though the movie uses plenty of common tropes associated with its genre, the story is still interesting and engaging. Also, unlike the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, in which the alliances and betrayals between multiple parties in the story may seem a bit complicated to follow sometime, the entire conflict in "Cutthroat Island" is just between Morgan and Dawg, so the overall story is pretty straightforward. Coupled with many action-packed fight scenes, plus a nice explosive (literally) climactic sea battle between Morgan and Dawg in the end, it's definitely a very enjoyable action movie to watch. ^^

On a separate note, one point unrelated to the story that would definitely pop up when one is trying to find more information about "Cutthroat Island" is, due to various unfortunate circumstances, the movie is one of the biggest box office flop of all time (from Wikipedia). ^^; Having such a title is of course unglamorous and unfortunate, but it doesn't automatically equal the movie being super bad. ^^; For me at least, it's a fun movie that I like to rewatch from time to time. ^^

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