Monday, June 22, 2009

The Island (1980)

Good music, a quality cast and a terrifying concept alone should be enough to induce a quality performance on the big screen, right?

Add in pirates and you’ve got yourself a smörgåsbord of cinematic du-jour, right?

Aside from it’s qualities, “The Island,” starring Michael Caine [“Peeper,” “Get Carter”] is in itself an extremely bizarre moment in cinema, lacking the intelligence and plot-logic to be taken ultimately seriously.

Nevertheless, it’s still fun.

The film has many going things in its favor, including a screenplay written by the author of the novel on which it is based, Peter Benchley, who is probably most famous for having penned “Jaws” and several other sea-fearing novels.

Following the exploits of Blair Maynard, [played by Caine,] a journalist that takes his bratty son, Justin [Jeffrey Frank] on a work related trip with him, “The Island” is a leave your brain at home thrill ride. After a spell, the two decide to go fishing and are kidnapped by a nasty group of pirates. These primitive assailants have existed for three hundred years, isolated from the real world.

Filmed by Michael Ritchie, ["Downhill Racer"] “The Island,” features strong action scenes. In spite of this, Ritchie’s direction doesn’t compare in scenes with the novice actors playing the pirates. Most of them are so over the top that the film loses some of its impact.

The only pirate that evokes any real fear is played by David Warner [“Tron,” Time Bandits”]. Warner is a talented classically-trained actor that adds a touch of class to the film. Ritchie seems to have directed him and Caine very well. They give earnest performances in a production that is below their normal standards.

However, Frank’s character is utterly loathsome. It’s not that Jeffrey is a bad actor, it’s just that Benchley wrote a character with no redeeming qualities. Because of this, you may find yourself wishing Caine would just save himself and leave his son to his own fate.

On the plus side, the film is pampered with a decent amount of gore, for lovers of the horror genre. The gore early on enables us to feel the tension for the main character on his voyage to reclaim his son.

Another saving grace is Ennio Morricone’s [legendary composer of such films as "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" and "Once Upon a Time in America"] score, which manages to balance the drama and horror aspects quite well. The score slowly sets each scene. At the end of the film, it even forces you to watch the entire credit sequence.

Bottom line:- it is rare to find a bad movie with so many things to recommend. That is what one misses the most from the 70’s and 80’s – bad movies had character. This could be enjoyed as your guilty pleasure. At the center of “The Island,” you have a chance to see just how talented Caine really is because this film is not something many actors would have taken seriously.

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