Cutthroat Island

Year: 1995
Production Co: Carolco Pictures
Studio: MGM
Director: Renny Harlin
Producer: Renny Harlin
Cast: Geena Davis, Matthew Modine, Frank Langella
There's only one reason to watch this film, and that's because of its notorious reputation as the most expensive flop in cinema history. Along with Showgirls, this was the movie that sunk the previously unshakable Carolco, the powerhouse of über-producers Andrew Vajna and Mario Kassar behind Terminator 2, Universal Soldier and more.

Was it so bad it deserved to bankrupt one of the most successful Hollywood institutions of the 1990s? Hardly. Is it good? Not at all - the story of a female pirate (Davis) who takes control of her father's vessel and crew to lead a revenge mission against the evil uncle (Langella) after he's killed her father and made off with the treasure map is spotty, indistinct and never sure if it's a romantic, partly erotic action movie like Romancing the Stone or a comic adventure like Pirates of the Caribbean. The character of Morgan Adams is so flat you don't know if she's supposed to be ditzy, wily, sexy, lucky, reckless or all at once.

In another universe it would simply have sunk like a stone or gone straight to DVD, but in this case one enormous question hangs over Cutthroat Island. Just where did the money go? $100m was an obscene amount of money to make a movie in 1995 but it certainly didn't end up on screen. Apart from a few impressive sets of a British settlement on an island and a climactic galleon battle, there are no standout sequences or set pieces.

The six credited writers might explain the mess of the script in part, but director Harlin was having the day off as well. While not Orson Welles or David Fincher, you can't deny he has some impressive scenes in his repertoire. Even his refusal to flinch away from horrific and shocking violence is MIA here, and the result is a pirate movie that looks surprisingly cheap.

Until a certain Jack Sparrow came along, this is the one that cemented the belief in executive Hollywood that pirates were box office poison.

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