Box Office Bombs: Cutthroat Island

Back when Failed Critics was in its infancy, it was the journal of a man trying to educate and better himself by watching the IMDB Top 250. These days we prefer to send Failed Critics Podcast host Steve Norman on a suicide mission to watch the biggest box office disasters and report back to us.

FILM 'CUTTHROAT ISLAND' BY RENNY HARLINBox Office Losses (adjusted to take inflation into account) $145,366,673 

Cutthroat Island, a film so bad that it ruined an Oscar winners career and led to no studio making a pirate movie until Pirates of the Caribbean, over a decade after this debacle hit our screens.

The film stars Geena Davis and Matthew Modine, set in 1668, Davis character is a female pirate captain seeking the treasure based on the map tattooed on her dead fathers scalp. However it isn’t plain sailing (get it? Sailing? Pirate Ships! Trust me, that was funnier than any of the one liners in the film).

The premise sounds reasonable at least. And I will start with the other good point, the only other good point. The film looks good. No CGI is used but the sets are fantastically made and the costumes good as well. The image of 17th century Jamaica, the ‘Treasure Island’ and the ships look believable and convincing and the effects, in reality limited to the odd explosion and things being wrecked and destroyed, work well.

So that’s it. Two good things. A reasonable plot and good set design.

The most interesting aspect of this film is probably Davis. She is (or more aptly was) a very good actress. She was an Oscar winner, picking up Best Supporting Actress for The Accidental Tourist. She was nominated for the Best Actress gong for Thelma and Louise. She had pedigree, she had talent.

She then met  Renny Harlin who got het cast in ‘Cutthroat’ to try and make her a more bankable star in the lead role in a blockbuster type film. This failed spectacularly.

Davis could not pull this role off, she lacked the charisma to lead the film along and could not deliver the one liners with any wit or humor, she was poor in the many actions scenes and failed to engage the audience with her character.

It is not harsh to say this film all but ended her career, this Oscar winner went on to appear in five more films. One was ‘The Long Kiss Goodnight’ which was made at the same time as ‘Cutthroat Island’ and three were in the Stuart Little trilogy, one of those being a voice performance.

Matthew Modine was cast as the leading man, or lead support, or plank of wood, depending on your point of view. You can tell he is meant to be playing a toned down Jack Sparrow before Jack Sparrow came along. He should have been charming, cocky, a rouge who plays by no one else’s rules but his own.

In actuality he is boring bordering on irritating. In the film he is meant to be the key to reading the scalp map and finding the treasure. He just seems useless and a hindrance throughout. Even his plans seem to come to fruition through sheer luck and fluke rather than Blackadder-esque cunning.

It’s interesting to note that Tom Cruise, Keanu Reeves, Liam Neeson, Jeff Bridges, Ralph Fiennes, Charlie Sheen, and Michael Keaton all turned down Modine’s role and given the effect it had on Davis it’s a good job they did.

Oliver Reed was sacked from the cast for getting into a bar fight and trying to show his dick to Geena Davis. That is the best bit of the whole film.

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