I did it, I finished watching 1995's Cutthroat Island. It wasn't easy. This is in spite of lovely costumes and ships and some genuinely impressive stuntwork. This legendary bomb, which sunk Carolco pictures and Geena Davis' career as an A-lister, suffers from its intensely bland protagonists. Some stars need to be told they're not right for some roles but unfortunately for Geena Davis, her husband, Cutthroat Island director Renny Harlin, was not that kind of friend to her.
Many blame the chemistry between Davis and Matthew Modine for the film's failure to connect. And indeed, they do have terrible chemistry, both speaking with flat American accents, not helped by dialogue that sounds like it was translated by Google from another language. "I must visit that shop again when I have more time!" says Morgan (Davis) as she and William (Modine) ride away on a coach from an action scene where several buildings explode for no apparent reason.
But the bad chemistry and dialogue wouldn't have been total dealbreakers if Davis were the action star she apparently had designs on being. It turns out the oddly polite bank robber that emerged from the meek housewife she was perfect for in Thelma and Louise didn't make her appropriate as a ruthless, lifelong adventurer at sea.
A good action star, like any other star, is capable of exuding a certain kind of personality. It's not just being coordinated--and it is impressive Davis apparently did several of her own stunts, including rolling onto the moving coach from a window above. A good action star is like a coiled spring, you can sense that they're always at some level ready to do violence, like Toshiro Mifune's scary reflexes or Bruce Willis' perpetual irritability. It's a shame because Davis probably was, or maybe is, used as fodder for arguments that women can't be action stars. But one need look only to Aliens or Terminator 2 or, I'd argue, Anne of the Indies to know this isn't so. Geena Davis doesn't work as an action star any more than would Hugh Grant or Bokuzen Hidari.
The movie boldly sets itself in a specific year, 1668. I've been researching the period so let's see if I can spot any subtle anachronisms.
Ah. Well. There's that.
This big budget production apparently went wildly out of control. I liked Harlin's low budget film Devil's Pass from a couple years ago, maybe he just wasn't meant for productions this size.