A Review by Noah Antwiler
When you think of box-office bombs , most people will probably name Kevin Costner's paralyzingly bad and disastrously unsuccessful soggy epic Waterworld as the biggest. There's always a lot of debate on movie discussion forums about box-office grosses, something I've rarely understood. When a movie does badly, people often jump on the bandwagon that "it did crap at the box office, therefore it sucked" or "it made a shitload of money so this movie rules." I don't have to name off many examples to show you that box-office totals and film quality are mutually exclusive. Incredibly stupid movies can make a ton of money (Independence Day, anyone?) and really good films can tank hard (John Carpenter's The Thing). I think the reason most movies succeed or fail is based on memes, and these memes are built with two things: the strength of the trailer and how badly major reviewers savage the film before it's released. Viral marketing and all that.
Example: It didn't matter what ID4 was about, but the trailer had a shot of the White House getting butt-fucked by a death ray, and who doesn't want to see that? Instant blockbuster.
I think people heard about Kevin Costner drinking his own distilled pee in Waterworld and ran for the hills. Now, it turns out that Waterworld was in fact a steaming turd, but nobody wants to see the guy from Field of Dreams drinking his wee-wee. I puzzle over it myself. If he has a machine that can distill urine into drinking water, why can't he just purify sea water? After much thinking, I finally decided that he prefers warm drinks.
Anyway, there was another movie released at just about the same time that was a much bigger bomb, was (apparently) way dumber, and got almost no press at all. Waterworld's infamy had totally eclipsed it, even though it held the world record for being the biggest box-office bomb by losing around $90 million domestically after raking in only $10M and costing over $100M. That movie was the Geena Davis vehicle Cutthroat Island. You wouldn't think it, nor would you probably have guessed the two films that ultimately usurped Island's record: Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (which destroyed Square Films) and The Adventures of Pluto Nash (which basically destroyed Eddie Murphy's drawing power). Unlikely films, but hardly surprising. I think people took one look at Final Fantasy, said, "What, no androgynous blond faggot with a leather fetish and a buster sword?" and never ever thought about that movie again until just now. But that's not the point here.
We're talking about Cutthroat Island, a movie that flew completely under my radar until I received a number of near-suicidal e-mails detailing the mental anguish that this movie did to them and asking would-you-please kindly rape it over a pool table until it dies a fuck-silly, painful death? I admit, I have no idea whether or not Cutthroat Island is any good or not, and if you were to look at the reviews on Amazon.com, they're mostly quite positive. Like I said, I don't put any stock in the box office grosses or movie reviews; Sure, at first glance this movie looks like it could be one of the most painful experiences of my life. But you know what? I'm willing to judge a film on its merits. I'll give it a shot. I've been wrong before. Like that one time...uhhh...can't remember...something about space cowboys and vampire slayers. I might have dreamed that one. Yeah, I've never been wrong. This movie is going to hurt. Bad.
But just try finding this movie anywhere. Much like my quest to find a copy of the Steven Seagal shitburger Belly of the Beast, I've found that this movie has almost completely been purged from our cultural consciousness. I went to every video store I could think of, including the Virgin Megastore down in Tempe which is vastly overpriced but has almost everything you can think of (something I wouldn't expect from a place that caters mostly to teenyboppers and nonconformist posers) and I couldn't find it. Not stocking a lame direct-to-video release I can understand, but when I can find a whole section devoted to Ed Wood and not find a major studio release, it sends up warning signals. Eventually I had to resort to Netflix once again because I can't in good conscience pay full price (which is about $7) for this movie.
Even more disheartening were that, looking at the stars of this picture, for a moment I blanked completely on their entire careers. Eventually I managed to dredge up from my memory banks that Geena Davis was in the television drama Commander in Queef-- er, Chief (cancelled), but you'd probably know her best from Beetlejuice. Uh oh. And Matthew Modine? Sounds like a guy you should know, right? Okay, quick, name anything he's been in. I had to look it up. This is really the only one that rang a bell:
And after this, he went on to star in Funky Monkey. I'm getting that bad feeling again. In fact, Modine wasn't the producer's first choice for this movie. Not even the second. Instead, they offered Michael Douglas $15 million to play this role, who pulled out of shooting rather quickly. Then they made the same offer to Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves, who rejected it also. Keanu was busy (I shit you not) playing Hamlet in Canada. They let the guy from Speed play HAMLET? "Um, whoa...alas poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio. A most excellent fellow of infinite jest!"
After being rejected by Keanu-fricking-Reeves, they decided to do some rewrites. They beefed up Geena's part, and went to the b-list of actors. They contacted Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, Liam Neeson, Charlie Sheen, and Michael Keaton and waved $7 million at them, to no luck. This movie was too dumb for Charlie "Navy SEALs" Sheen? Oh MAN!! So Modine was the ninth pick? Burn!!
If that wasn't bad enough, this is clearly one of those "chicks in tight pants kicking ass" movies that are never, never any good. Even if you're hoping for the pirate factor to tip the scales here, remember that this is a PG movie, guaranteeing that you're not going to see any whoring or catch a glimpse of Geena Davis' boobs. I mean, I guess I could sanction a viewing of Bloodrayne if you clinically needed to see Kristanna Loken's tits (hey, it happens), but Geena Davis as a pirate? I'm sorry, I know this is sexist but you gotta throw me a bone here and have her at least do some lesbian stuff or throw in some bodice-ripping goodness. Leave the swordfighting to us manly men! I accept no she-pirates! Why, next you'll be telling me that ninjas would beat pirates in a fight. This movie looks terrible already. No gore, no rapin', no pillagin', nothing that pirates do well? Gar! Gar, I say! Is it too late to go rent Funky Monkey?
A long-haired Italian type is lounging on the bed, probably getting a good look at the thing he bedded last night and vowing never to drink again. The guy looks a little like Weird Al Yankovic, and immediately the thought of Weird Al having sex with Geena Davis makes me turn to the booze. As if this scene wasn't surreal enough, there's a monkey on the bed and I can only pray that it wasn't involved in last night's festivities.
Geena looks like she's in a hell of a hurry to get out of here, when really with a face like hers she should be grateful for whatever action she can get. Even Weird Al seems confused. "Yur leeving?" he croons in a horrible Italian(?) accent. "Boot I thot yu and I wur foreffer. I want you so badly..." he says orgasmically, reaching for his crotch. NO!!! Stop it!! I'm not even 90 seconds in and this movie is making me sick!
Some idiot outside starts hooting "MORGOOW" or something, so Weird Al pulls a derringer out from under the pillow. "But so doz de governor of Porto Royale! And he wil pay wel for de capture of Morr-gon Adamz de pirate!"
Morr-gon looks bushwhacked. "You knew who I was?" she says in a throaty butch voice that's not-at-all sexy. Not to be nitpicky but shouldn't you say "who I am?" You were the same person you are. Before. You was who you are now. Enh. "You're heartless, Lieutenant!" Jeez, she bangs the guy and she's not even on a first name basis with him. Or maybe that's their thing...But Geena grins like a mule, "But I knew that you knew, so last night..." she snaps her fingers and summons her monkey, who drops some pistol shot into her hand. "I took your balls!" D'oh! That slutty pirate! How could she ever have guessed, sleeping the entire night with her head resting on a 3-pound loaded derringer under her pillow? She's outwitted us all and really shined it on with an immasculating grrl-power one-liner. Only, the gag doesn't really work when you consider that she has two shots in her hand and there's only one gun, but that ruins the whole line when it becomes "I took your ball." This movie is already pissing me off and I'm not even through the credits. God damn it.
The credits wrap up by showing us a sunset so blindingly orange that I thought Skynet must have finally triggered a global nuclear launch. Geena, some little guy that can't act, and the big black guy who was yelling "MORGOOOOW" are galloping through the orange haze. They hastily explain something about a guy named "Dog" who has her father held captive. And no, Geena doesn't have a rack that makes watching her ride a horse remotely interesting. The whole time (in what I'm now calling the official Orange Scene) we see Geena & Gang riding through orange credits, a horrible, overblown and entirely generic Pirate Musical Score are playing a repetitive, bombastic, blasting mess that would have made Al Glasser cringe. The score even abuses the God Chorus to a criminal degree. The God Chorus is that group of loud people that howl over major action scenes in words nobody understands, but are probably Latin for "Big Action Scene! Big god damn sword! Big explosions! Crashing planes!" This is something which is becoming more and more common ever since people realized that an over-dramatic God Chorus makes things seem much more interesting like in Lord of the Rings, everyone is hiring a God Chorus and changing up the music to Karl Orff's "Carmina Burana" so people think the movie is intense.
Then, for no reason, we see Geena riding alone. Apparently she ditched the other two losers a ways back because we can see them in the extreme distance not even trying to catch up. There's a guy on the edge of a sandbar rather innocently leaning against his rowboat when Geena rides past, dives off her horse, and tackles the SHIT out of him. Daaang! I know she's a pirate, but that was unprovoked. The poor guy struggles to his feet, and before he's even gotten to his knees she kicks him right in the head like a football. The guy goes sprawling unconscious in the ocean to drown, and the God Chorus is singing happily about how glorious it is! "Ooooh Glorious Morgan!!! Wanton Violence Oooooooh! Oya Visconce!"
By the time the sidekicks catch up to the guy Geena destroyed, she's already in the rowboat halfway to a vessel anchored about a mile off the coast. They look at each other as if to say "Are we in this movie?"
The Orange Scene abruptly ends when we see the deck of the large ship, which is surrounded by a strange, starless black void that indicates either they've slipped into a dimension of shadow or that they're on the most obvious sound stage in the world. The captain is fondling a torn map, and demanding to know of some crusty old guy (presumably Morgan's father) where the other two-thirds of the map are. Whoop, I smell the plot contrivance! We can see Morr-gon rowing desperately towards the ship, where it's no longer orange, but a strange third dimension where it's dusk. Morgan's dad tells the Evil Guy that the map is in his head, tells him to kindly go screw himself, and dives off the ship with his leg tied to the anchor.
Morgan rows alongside the ship undetected, which is unlikely considering the likelihood of any random pirate to glance over at the sound of a grunting woman and splashing oars, and sees her dad plop into the ocean. He frantically tells her to let him go. "Never!" Geena says from an ADR booth, because her mouth never comes close to making a shape that could possibly form a sound other then "EEEGGGH." A pirate leans over the rail and shoots him, as if the anchor wasn't fatal enough. Don't you want this guy alive so he can tell you where the treasure map is? Why would you shoot him in the heart? Thankfully the God Chorus is around to wail about how tragic this is, because I wouldn't know how to feel about it without fifty people chanting about it in Latin. "Ooooaaaaaaghhh! Oooooaaaaagggh! Oh noooooooo....deaaaaaad guyyyyyyy...."
Morgan goes in the water, cuts the anchor rope, and drags her dad's carcass a mile to the shore. Uh huh. With his dying breath, he tells her "Get yer knife. Shave my head" which has to rank up there with the oddest last-wishes ever.
The God Chorus takes a break as we move on to a snooty fancy dress ball, the sort with huge wigs and plenty of harpsichord music and people dancing in formation, proving that throughout history, white people have never been able to bust a move. We see a weasely guy named Trotter raiding the munchies when his superior officer comes over and tells him to go over and dance with the ugly chick in the corner because her dad contributes a lot of money to the colony. Al whines "She's rather homely, isn't she." The boss is all "yeah well so are you, dickhead." Hey, look at it this way, ugly chicks are way more likely to put out on the first date!
Luckily for Trotter, Matthew Modine in a poofy wig swoops in and sweeps Ugly Chick off her feet, claiming to be a doctor and acting so insufferably smug that I want to hit him with a brick within seconds of seeing him. As if he wasn't loathsome enough he starts grabbing her ass and basically dry-humping her in the middle of the dance floor which (eew) she seems to enjoy a great deal. Then he runs off, only to be stopped by Trotter just as half the women in the room start shrieking over all their shiny valuables that he's stolen. Trotter calls for the guard but is oddly surprised when "Dr. Shaw" boots him in the shin and makes a run for it. Shaw leaps up on the banister, throws off his poofta wig and bellows "Good night, ladies!" before diving down to the lower floor and being surrounded by guards. I suppose it would be cynical to note that had he not wasted a full ten seconds to pose like a twat on the staircase, fling off his wig and blow kisses to the women, he might actually have made it out the door. But then, cynical is what I do.
Morgan's dad left her the ship and its crew, so that's where we find her. She's chugging rum like it was Gatorade as the funny fat sidekick rolls off his nearby hammock and tells her to give up this life of piracy and go to London because nobody will believe a chick giving people orders. After Geena's stint in Commander in Chief, I'm inclined to agree. She scoffs and tells her monkey to "hoist my pennant." Eeeeeeeeew. Lady, I wouldn't hoist your anything. I'm starting to see filthy double-entendres where there aren't any...
Back on deck, a surprisingly articulate pirate is making his bid for the captaincy when a hung-over Morgan stumbles forward and makes her own claim. She reaches into her pocket and pulls out her dad's tattooed scalp, which makes even the hardened pirates gag. That's just gross, lady. He said "shave my head" not "scalp me." I guess I know it had to be done, but I wouldn't carry that thing in my pocket, man! Blegh. Anyway, she tells them all it's a map to Cutthroat Island, a land of endless gold and jewels beyond your wildest dreams, full of virgins and chocolate, yadda yadda yadda. The pirates are down with getting their hands on some booty, but it turns out that the map is in Latin and nobody can read it. Plus, there are two other parts of the map and one of them is with nefarious pirate Dawg Brown. Upon hearing that news, the pirates are all "fuck that noise" but Morgan insists that if they join forces with Mordechai, the guy with the second map piece, they can take Dawg.
The quartermaster, a bald guy with a cool spotted tattoo all over his face that makes him look like a berserker Stone Cold Steve Austin decides that they'll give Morgan a chance if she can deliver the goods with Mordechai. Geena takes out some stumpy parrying dagger and hurls it across the deck so that it sticks into the mast, saying that if anyone wants a piece of her, just pull it out. The dagger, I mean. I would have loved it if about two dozen pirates formed a line and started arguing about who wants to beat the crap out of her first.
Then we see a sweeping aerial shot of a bustling island town, which the friendly subtitle tells us is "Port Royal, Jamaica." Shouldn't it be "Port Royal, Jamaica, Caribbean?" I mean, it makes sense to infer that this is the same Jamaica as before but I can't be sure unless you explicitly say it. This could be anywhere. Morgan and her crew are dressed in finery instead of their usual pirate duds. They've found someone who reads Latin but he's in jail and about to be sold as a slave. There's only one person in the whole of Port Royal who speaks Latin? And how did news of this renowned Latin-speaking slave escape the walls of the prison? Does he often brag about his Latin-reading skills, or is somehow known throughout the town for his great feats of Latin-reading? Exactly how does one get a reputation for being able to read Latin? Blackbeard must have had to kill a hundred men before he became well known when all he had to do was study a dead language and news of his deeds would have spread all the way to the Spanish Main. "Blackbeard? By god, he's that man who can insult you in Latin! Run up the white flag!"
While I'm at it, why in the sweet name of Christ didn't Morgan's dad just tell her where Cutthroat Island is instead of making her dick around with all this map-collecting, dad-scalping nonsense? He must have been there, or at least have seen the whole map at one time if he had a third of it TATTOOED on his HEAD. This whole concept is contrived. Come to think of it, if he knew where all this treasure was, why didn't he just lead his crew there and take it? You don't just forget two-thirds of the secret! Stupid STUPID movie!!
Geena visits the soon-to-be Latin-speaking slave, who of course turns out to be Shaw. When asked "are you this fabled scholar who alone among all souls in the Caribbean speaks this strange and mystic language known as La-tin?" Shaw launches into a diatribe about how awesome he is, rather like C-3PO describing about how he speaks the binary language of Bocchi and can easily program binary load lifters, very similar to your moisture vaporators in most respects. The guy just will not. shut. up.
Morgan tells him to shut the hell up and say something "Latinish" so he says "You are a very beautiful woman. I'd like to wash your feet." This creepy bastard. Does he have to be in this movie? Can't Morgan buy a Latin phrase book somewhere. I really don't like this movie. Ugh.
Later, the slave auction is taking place, and Morgan is out there with her monkey and ready to buy herself her very own Matthew Modine. I'm distracted entirely by a surprise appearance of the Wheel of Pain from the Conan the Barbarian movie, but alas, there are no Cimmerians up for auction today. Morgan gets into a bidding war with a nobleman who has a real hate-on for Shaw for no real reason. The noble tells her that he'll buy Shaw for any price, so she might as well get her skank ass back in the kitchen to make him a sandwich, which naturally doesn't sit well with tough-girl Morgan. She starts stalking towards him with her game face on, and even her monkey has an expression that says "Betta recognize." She walks up, stabs the guy in the butt and tells him to get lost. Does he run off and call for the guard? No, because that would make SENSE!! Morgan wins the auction, and the score rises to a soaring crescendo that would seem like overkill even if Superman had just kicked all the world's nuclear weapons into the sun.
A few British guardsmen lounging off to the side recognize Morgan's face from a nearby wanted poster. Seems unlikely, but think about it: it's 1668 and you're looking for pirates. Your first indications are bound to be (a) a rudimentary prosthesis such as an eyepatch, hook, or peg leg), (b) parrot, or (c) MONKEY. The soldiers start to converge on them, so Morgan splits the crew up to cause some chaos. She makes for the safety of a nearby building, but more soldiers come streaming out. She mafia kicks one in the balls so hard it seems to stun the three men behind him into staring slack-jawed while she gets away. Some more soldiers attack, but she fends them off with a shovel, which she uses to bludgeon two more men straight in the nuts. Jesus FISH this is hard to watch. She must really hate men or something because this seriously goes against the rules of fighting as established by Man Law.
Morgan drags Shaw along to a scaffolding where they do that usual swashbuckly thing where they hang onto a rope, cut another rope and ride the counterweight to the top of the wall. "Fast!" ADR Geena yells even though her mouth doesn't move. She decides the best way down the other side of the wall is to stupidly jump through about sixty feet of wooden scaffolding, which at best would break her legs, arms, and force her to pick splinters out of her snatch for a decade, so they jump. They fall through what are clearly breakaway floors, their speed remaining constant and looking totally unnatural because you can clearly see the wire harness giving them both wedgies. At one point, you can even see one of the wires get jostled, making the stuntman-in-a-dress lurch to one side. They land in a convenient haystack as some soldiers come rushing up to the top of the wall where they just jumped.
They run towards a nearby carriage, the driver of which looks straight at the two maniacs who jumped off the wall and are charging right at him, then looks up at the top of the wall like a complete idiot as if wondering "huh, I wonder why those soldiers are shooting" and then is completely stunned when Geena runs up and HURLS him out of the driver's seat with one hand. And he only had, what, twelve seconds to be ready for that? How about that upper body strength on Geena Davis? Sidearming a 180 lbs. man left-handed? Damn!
The soldiers give chase as they ride off in the carriage down a narrow street. Squibs go off on the walls although I don't see where anyone could possibly be shooting at them. Someone leaps on top of the carriage, but instead of Shaw going off to fight the guy (Geena being rather busy driving), she hands Shaw the reins(!) and goes back to fistfight the trained soldier. Now, I'm definitely not saying this to be sexist, but what the hell is she doing? He's the guy with his hands free, I rather foolishly expected Modine to just jump back there and kick the guy off the side. The soldier overpowers her and starts LEVELING her with haymakers to the face that would KILL a man. Holy crap! She finally manages to kick the guy away, but just as she goes back to the driver's seat, two more soldiers ride up and jump atop the carriage. Get this: Shaw stays right where he is and Geena stands back up and brawls it out with two guys. Is Shaw a complete pussy or what?
The carriage approaches a building that forms a sort of overpass. Morgan is forced to jump into the building while the carriage continues underneath. She stumbles through the rooms of the building, pushes past all the people, falls down, gets up, and jumps through the window on the other side of the building. And she actually outruns the galloping horses!! She falls out the window to land perfectly on the driver's seat next to Shaw. It's a good thing those horses went into slow-motion or she'd have been a dead duck. I am dangerously close to flinging my own feces right now.
Then a ship in the harbor somehow gets word that the famed pirate Morgan Adams (and the notorious Latin-reading rogue Shaw) are trying to flee the town. Somehow this news managed to beat Morgan herself, who is racing directly towards the ship in a carriage at full gallop. Whoever ran that message is fast! Then the captain (for reasons I can only attribute to stark raving insanity) has the crew load up the starboard cannons and orders them to fire blindly into Port Royal! The cannons level entire buildings, killing untold numbers of civilians, and striking rather inconveniently located stashes of explosive powder in the streets. The captain snaps his spyglass shut and growls "Oh my God" because he knows it's gonna be really hard to explain this one in the report. "Captain's Log: Saw a pirate. Fired like a spaz into a densely-populated city. May have overreacted."
Shaw looks back at the burning charnel strewn behind them and cheers "You certainly left your mark on this town!" which gets a good laugh from Morgan. Ha ha! Innocent bystanders roasting to death is hilarious! Once they're free of the city, they climb into the carriage and Morgan shows Shaw the disgusting scalp-map. Shaw begins to ask "what's in it for me" until she jams a knife into his balls and twists it, making a rather hideous fleshy ripping noise. That puts Shaw in line pretty quick, and they recognize that the map isn't in Latin, it's written backwards! So not only did Morgan's dad have the map, he tattooed it onto his head backwards....um...why, exactly? And why is Morgan so abusive to male genitalia? She's one sick bitch, if you ask me.
The entire ride in the carriage is an ugly, obvious post-process shot on a sound stage, using rear-projection to show a moving background through the window of the clearly motionless vehicle. I thought this movie had $100 million thrown at it, and they hit me with a poor man's effect from the 1970s? Laaaaaaame!
Shaw reads the "map" which turns out to be little more than a list of psalms. This stumps them cold even though the only reason you'd put such a thing on a treasure map is to encode coordinates. I play too many video games, but you're telling me a veteran sailor like Morgan who's been a pirate all her life doesn't recognize coordinates when she sees them?
The fat guy from the ship is delivering some chapters of a book he's written to a shop in Port Royale when a rather vexed Trotter pulls him aside to speak with the governor. The guv's rather embarrassed that Morgan stole his carriage, when he should be embarrassed that he's wearing a disturbing shade of red lipstick and a ratty brown wig that makes him look even more womany than Geena Davis. He says that he knows Fattie spends most of his time hanging out with pirates and writing stories of their exploits, so he tells him to make Morgan an offer: get ready to be hanged (hung?) or cut the governor in for a share of the treasure on Cutthroat Island. How does he know about that? Your guess is as good as mine.
Another location. The subtitle says that it's "Spittlefield Harbor, Jamaica (Caribbean implied)." Gee, I'm glad they told me I'm looking at Spittlefield even though that's exactly where they said they were going next, and even gladder they told me it's still Jamaica because they could have flown those horses to some other Caribbean island using their hidden rocket boosters.
Spittlefield is about as nice a town as you'd expect a town called Spittlefield to be. Picture a place called Buttnugget City. There you go. It's got a lot of swarthy greasy people who have nothing better to do than carouse in public and do piratey things like drinking, wenching, and laughing raucously at people getting horribly injured. Even though it's supposed to be an exterior location, the opaque blackness that makes up every backdrop, the cheap-looking sets and claustrophobic set design make it painfully obvious this is yet another sound stage.
Morgan notices that Mordechai (the guy with the other map piece) is holed up at home surrounded by guards, probably looking out for Dawg Brown. She decides to dress up like a whore (that's a big change...) and hoochie her way in. One of the guys warding the door is wearing an eyepatch! Now that's a real pirate! He pats Morgan down for weapons after honking her horns like he was feeling up cantaloupes. Yowza!
The pirate starts grabbing for her leg where she undoubtedly has stored an arsenal, and somehow bluffs her way through it by saying "all that costs money!"
Inside, Mordechai immediately pegs her as "Black Harry's girl." Morgan points the gun strapped to her leg at him and warns him not to scream. "What do you want, eh?" he asks. What in the hell do you think she wants, you stupid STUPID man? She browbeats him into joining the quest after a conversation that makes absolutely zero sense. She says "this treasure is ours. Or it would be if you were an Adams." Um, what?
"There's no water in Adams blood!" he retorts! Huh?? They walk out together, and Mordechai grins at her, "Just like Harry, mine's well hid!" I do not need to know any more about where your map is hidden, okay? Suddenly a chain lashes out from off-camera, wraps around Morgan's neck, and pulls her off a balcony to crash through a table. Somehow this impact jostles loose the pistol she had double-strapped to her thigh and sends it flying out of reach. We're just making up new laws of physics now.
Dawg Brown and his men surround Morgan and Mordechai and go through the usual "give me the map," "nuh uh" "yuh huh" routine while Shaw sneaks around behind the bar. He uncorks a keg of black powder sitting on the bar and walks off. So the tavern keeps a full keg of black powder sitting next to the beer? Dawg threatens Morgan with a gigantic ravenous eel (they have a barrel full of live five-foot long ravenous eels too) until Shaw makes the save by throwing a candle into the black powder. The explosion sends a stuntman flying across the room. Meantime, I'm still wondering who's ordering mugs of gunpowder.
A tavern brawl starts up. Shaw throws a sword to Morgan and asks when he's ever going to get his manacles taken off. You were on the road for twelve hours and you only now ask about the manacles? Dawg grabs Mordechai by the throat and demands to know where his part of the map is, but gets impatient and stabs him. Not a very good treasure hunter. That's the second guy he's killed instead of learning where their map was. Then Dawg grabs a completely random extra, shouts "Hey! You killed my brother" and cuts his throat. WHAT? Is he trying to be funny? Is it wrong that I can't tell anymore? How did this plot get so complicated? What is going on??
Mordechai crawls over to the (now broken) barrel of eels and clutches onto some wooden carving that was inside it. Shaw notices this and takes the object, seeming to have no idea what a barrel of eels is doing here either. Morgan swings on a chandelier away from the brawl. Dawg gets a "screw this" look on his face and just shoots her in the gut with his pistol. Wow! Thanks, movie! She cuts the rope on the chandelier on the way out, which falls onto a table and explodes, taking out the entire building. What the-- I had to back up the movie and watch this again. The chandelier falls onto a table which has nothing on it except for a keg of something explosive (which I presume is gunpowder) that spontaneously combusts on impact. Not only that, the 5-gallon keg manages to take out the entire building in one giant conflagration. You know what? Here, just watch it for yourself:
So when Shaw blew up the keg of powder on the bar it only launched a stuntman, but when Morgan drops a chandelier on one it takes out the whole block? Does black powder even do that? And if it does, why would anyone have it on their dinner table? This is rapidly becoming the most retarded crap I've ever seen, and I've watched almost every episode of Walker: Texas Ranger.
Morgan & Shaw flee across a rickety second-floor bridge until they become surrounded by more of Dawg's men. They look around desperately for an escape (as do I) when suddenly a nearby window explodes outward in a rush of flame. Why? Because Stone Cold Steve Austin is downstairs toting a grenade launcher. And evidently this 1668 weapon has a rotating ammunition drum or something because he can fire it like a semiautomatic rifle without reloading. The bald pirate jackhammers what's left of the building into smoldering rubble with his anachronistic weapon of mass destruction as Morgan dives down into a crash mat and swordfights some more anonymous pirates. Have we completely forgotten that Morgan has been shot in the stomach? There's not even any sign of her wound in this scene. Damn continuity, it makes shooting a movie HARD!
(Amusing things to note during this scene: a pirate who somersaults over a railing to his death despite not getting shot at all, and Matthew Modine getting hit with a falling barrel after a nearby explosion that seems like a dangerously botched pyrotechnic stunt, but was left in the movie anyway.)
The crew regroups in an alley, where Morgan watches someone duck into a palm-reader's shop. Gazing at the sign, which is shaped like an open hand with numbers marking key points, she gets an epiphany! The numbers of the psalms on the map must translate to map coordinates! This isn't exactly the Da Vinci Code. Not that The Da Vinci Code was brilliant writing by any stretch. As the crew runs back to their ship, the Morning Star, we can see Dawg Brown emerge through a wall of fire, completely unscathed by the exploding tavern despite being about twelve feet away from the chandelier when it blew. Mmkay.
"Congratulations, madam," Shaw tells Morgan, "That's another town you've destroyed!" I know! What a knee-slapper! There's nothing funnier than leaving the corpses of smoldering innocents in your wake and ruining the livelihood of hapless small-business owners who only wanted to serve quality food, beer, and heaping mugs of gunpowder. Assholes.
Dawg Brown also goes back to his ship, stomps onto the deck and shouts "Why aren't I moving??" We, Dawg. Why aren't we moving? Well, probably because we had to anchor the ship to pull your ugly ass aboard, idiot. Or maybe it could be that your helmsman isn't telepathic and he has no idea where you want to go. A crewman tells Dawg that they can't move because the anchor's 'fouled,' so Dawg tells him to cut it loose. Another guy whines that they can't leave yet because they haven't loaded enough food yet. Yeah, that's brilliant. Mouth off to the dread pirate. Dawg blasts the guy in the chest with his gun, saying "we just have too many mouths." Clearly none of the other pirates passed that guy the memo about not pissing the captain off when he's in a bad mood.
Back on the Morning Star, Morgan seems to remember that she has a sucking torso wound, but the only thing she does to treat it is to empty half a bottle of liquor on it and goes right back to work. I'm sure that'll clear the impending infection right up. She goes up to tell Stone Cold the Helmsman that the coordinates lead to a coral reef, which works out so they can run Dawg's heavier ship onto the shallows and overwhelm him with their inferior numbers. Doesn't make much sense but the crew seems to buy it. Finally Morgan passes out bleeding all over the place and someone notes "She's got a wound!" Nonsense! Women do that all the time!
The first mate drags her below and is about to jam a red-hot poker into her side when Shaw remembers that he's a doctor and explains that it might be a good idea to remove the poisonous lead shot first. "I need clean towels and a full-bore IV of Ringer's Lactate!" Actually he just spends a minute fishing around with a pair of tweezers while she gets hammered on rum. It really shows off those years you studied in med school operating with unsanitary equipment wearing the same sweat-soaked burlap rags you've been wearing for weeks, Shaw. Clearly your talents are on full display.
While he "operates" Morgan offers Shaw half the treasure of Cutthroat Island, which is the buried swag from a looted Spanish gold ship, if he gives her Mordechai's map. Shaw insists that he doesn't have it, and after some flirtatious sparring they start to make out on the operating table. Because torn abdominal muscles, extreme blood loss, and an hour of excruciatingly painful surgery make me so horny! Oh baby, sex me up in a pool of my own blood. Just because I've been shot doesn't mean I can't get freaky!
Thankfully, Runty the Pirate runs in and tells them that Dawg's ship, the Reaper, is five miles out and bearing down on them. Dawg notices that Morgan's heading into the shallows and makes the brilliant navigational maneuver of not going there. Instead he decides to just circle around the island chain and ambush her when they come out, sneering "Uncle Dawg will have his day!" At last, the God Chorus comes back from their break, moaning dramatically that this is one scary, badass dude who is more than likely going to clean Morgan's clock! "AAAAAAAAHHHHH! AAMMBUUUUUSHH! CORN ONNNNNN THE KABOB!"
That night a vicious storm blows in, whipped into a frenzy by the power of the God Chorus screaming stuff like "RAINSTORM!! TYPHOOON!" without pause for about ten minutes. I wasn't aware of this at first, but Cutthroat Island is special. Yeah! It's true! It's the second movie to ever feature a special additive cinematographic technique. It was used only once before in the film Hercules Against the Moon Men, which many of you remember for it's protracted, seemingly endless scene of "Sandstorms.....Saaaaaaandstooooooooorms!!!" What is this feature, you ask? Well, I introduce you to Cutthroat Island's endless scene, which I like to call "Rainstorms....Raaaaiiiiiiiiintstoooooooorms!!!" This feature is known as...
That's right. DEEP HURTING. Understand now that this scant pair of paragraphs cannot accurately convey the seemingly endless pummeling of rainstorm footage that this movie unleashed on me. It's at least ten full minutes, but I may have blacked out somewhere in the middle of it. It truly is nothing but watching waves crash against the ship, crewman being tossed around, people getting flattened by torrents of water, on...and on...and ON...AND ON...AND ON....and the whole time, the whole time the God Chorus MOCKS me with its incessant chanting. ENOUGH!! Raiiiiinstorrrrrms!!!
Shaw sneaks into the captain's ready room where he decodes the rest of the coordinates...somehow. If you saw it you wouldn't get it either. Morgan is waiting for Shaw to do something stupid like this, of course, and catches him red-handed with the navigation charts. She wastes little time sending him below decks as a prisoner. Shaw confesses that he's always been a bum and he's certainly not a doctor ("I just play one on TV"), and says "I can't believe you let me fiddle with your hip!" How does this account for Shaw's supposed mastery of the Latin language?
A PLOT HOLE THE SIZE OF HAITI!!
More storm footage! Why, God?? Why won't you let me die? Morgan goes into her cabin to show Stone Cold the Helmsman the coordinates of Cutthroat Island, when another wave crashes into the back of the ship, destroying the windows and flooding the entire cabin with water. Finally, the first mate has had enough of the DEEP HURTING and leads the crew into the cabin where he seizes control of the ship quickly in a bloodless mutiny. Bloodless? No! Kill them! Kill them all!
They stuff Morgan and those loyal to her in a longboat and send them off into the rainstorm alone while the first mate turns the Morning Star around. Oh no...no...do you know what this means? Now we have to follow TWO ships through the rainstorm! The DEEP HURTING has doubled in intensity! Shaw escapes from the hold and dives after Morgan. I didn't think it was possible, but the God Chorus has actually escalated its campaign of screaming over the cacophonous score. The longboat capsizes, and they all become scattered and drown. The End!
Nah, actually by morning most of them are still clustered tightly together and doing just fine clinging to pieces of driftwood. The big black guy bellows "MORR-GON! LOOK," pointing to a distant island, which Morgan dubiously identifies as Cutthroat Island because of "the Cliffs of Blood." The crew celebrates and starts exchanging high-fives like they just won the lottery. "Hooray! We've found Cutthroat Island and the vast Spanish treasure! Of course, we have no food, fresh water, or a ship, and the island is uncharted so we have no hope of rescue, but we found it! Yayyyyy!"
The crew makes its way to the shore of the island, but all the driftwood they were clinging to has disappeared into a black hole of bad continuity. They start looking for the treasure even though without the third piece of the map, they have no idea where to begin and are officially up Shit Creek. This makes less sense than Lost. But hey! At least the DEEP HURTING has ended! ...Hasn't it?
They make their way to the high ground and see that the Reaper and the Morning Star are moored in the bay. It seems that the Morning Star didn't get far before Dawg captured it and acquired the rest of the map. Geena pulls a spyglass out of her ass and surveys the deck of the Reaper. Amazing that such a delicate instrument survived intact after being smacked against a reef and immersed in salt water for six hours. Dawg thanks Scully (the first mate) for handing him the Morning Star and sends out parties to search the island. Morgan sees the rowboats and remarks "they're coming ashore!" Without you, Morgan, the crew would be lost! It's a good thing you had that indestructible spyglass stored up your butt so you could point out the obvious group of rowboats headed straight for them.
That night-- or should i say, that pathetically cheap-looking day-for-night scene, we see Dawg's crew camped out on the island. Dawg himself is asleep in bed, cozily resting in a cabin. Wow, the crew must really be afraid of Dawg if they spent the whole day felling trees, planing wood and constructing a house for him to spend the night, complete with furniture and a comfortable bed. Either that or they just happened to find a log cabin by chance on the beach, constructed long ago by the Caribbean ancestors of Bob Vila. Building the house must have tuckered the crew out, because there's nobody on watch. Shaw sneaks into the cabin easily and steals Dawg's map by cutting it from around his neck. Hey, here's a kooky idea: why don't you cut his throat, you stupid jackhole? Just KILL HIM! Ugh. Shaw sneaks out instead of killing the villain, thus condemning us to 50 more minutes of this movie.
A tarantula wakes Dawg up(???) and he notices that his map is gone. He rampages outside, screaming "Bitch stole my map!" Dawg and his crew comb the jungle, the day-for-night effect looking especially fake because the torches they're carrying are clearly artificially dimmed, and the resulting scene is far too dark to see anything meaningful. How can a movie that cost so much look so cheaply made?
Morgan finds Shaw hip-deep in quicksand that morning (although the quicksand looks rather a lot like quickleaves), and for the next four minutes they gripe and argue.
"Give me the map, Shaw."
"No, fish me out of this quicksand first!"
"But if I bring you out of the quicksand you'll run away with the map!"
"Interesting point, milady, but if I give you the map you'll leave me here!"
SOMEBODY DO SOMETHING! Has nobody around here heard of an editor?? This bickering takes four minutes!
You know, I would rather play Pictionary with a room full of Tourette's patients for a year than watch any more of this movie.
Shaw and Morgan follow the map into a cliffside cave. There they find the bones of another unfortunate traveler. Morgan kneels down, grabs up the rotten femur from the skeleton, and rakes a knife across a nearby rock. She repeats this twice more, holding the bone up to the improbable shower of sparks erupting from the knife, and the bone bursts into flame as a perfectly serviceable torch! She doesn't wrap the bone in rags or dip it in oil, it just so happens that your leg bones are naturally-occurring torches. Is everything in this universe infused with explosive powder? Remember that, Dungeons & Dragons players; that's one more use for the skeleton, what was previously just useless flavor text and dungeon-dressing.
They creep through the cave following the clues on the map, but we can tell they're going in the right direction because the closer they get, the louder the God Chorus becomes. After a short hike, they peer down a slope and see a mountain of gold, where Geena gives the gummiest, fugliest grin I've ever seen a woman crowbar into her face.
It must have taken men years to ferry all that gold up the cliff and stash it in a pile here, not to mention the team of engineers they'd have needed to assemble a usable system. Anyway, Dawg is waiting for them at the top of the cliff. He starts to pull them and a treasure chest they've secured with a rope up to the top. Instead of being captured, they form a suicide pact and drop off the rope to the rocks far, far below. The End. Kidding. A swell of water rushes up to cover the rocks, as if they still wouldn't be pulverized after falling ninety yards. I half expect the rocks to explode, but they don't.
Shaw wakes up next to Fattie Author Guy (now that's horror), who's trying to rinse off his intense body funk in the surf, but nothing doing. Fattie tells Shaw that Morgan sent him, and that Morgan's waiting just over the next hill where there isn't a trap of any kind. Shaw shrugs and goes along with it, walking straight into a camp full of pirates and British soldiers. Dawg, Trotter, and the Ghostface British Governor Guy are sitting around a table, wondering where Morgan is when they should be busy hauling gold out of the treasure cave. Ghostface tells him that Fattie's been keeping them British-Piratic Alliance informed by carrier pigeon all along. Morgan's fine of course, and she washes up on shore just in time to watch the British loot the cave and divvy up the treasure on their respective ships.
Morgan stows away on the Morning Star, whose crew has been captured and clapped in irons down in the hold. And the British left a whole two guys to guard them! Morgan does one of those Solid Snake "neck snappy" moves and knifes the other to death. "Morr-gon!" hoots the token black guy, who should really keep his voice down at the moment, seeing as how they're trying to escape. Somehow they find a cache of swords and loaded pistols, swarm onto the maindeck and retake the whole ship without a shot being fired. The mutineers are kicked overboard and left to die slow, horrible deaths in the ocean. Yayyyyy!
They keep the British soldiers and Trotter alive, held at gunpoint on deck so that at first glance, everything will appear to be normal. They tell Trotter to smile because grinning like a jackass is the one thing he does well. What's confusing about this scene is that there were no more than, say, twenty crew members loyal to Morgan when the mutiny took place. Yet watching the scene now, there are more than fifty people loading up for battle, happily following Morgan's command. Can pirates reproduce asexually through mitosis?
Dawg takes one look at the approaching Morning Star, smells a rat, and orders general quarters and the guns loaded. I have to give Dawg credit; he's been one step ahead of Morgan's plans from the beginning. And just to be sure, he orders Shaw to be hanged from the yardarm to see if Morgan does anything to stop it. Smart guy!
Morgan pulls the ship alongside the Reaper and they have the mandatory "exchanging broadsides" scene. As both ships open fire on one another, it's clear that neither ship is moving at all even though they're both supposed to be at full sail. They trade what must be five full rounds of direct, point-blank cannon fire with each other, but neither side seems to inflict any appreciable amount of damage on the other! Oh, there are explosions, and a lot of sawdust and bodies flung around, but the hulls of the ships themselves stay pristine through the entire battle. No torn sails, no holes in the ship, no broken masts, nothing. Shaw grabs up a rope from his place on the yardarm and swings to safety. Hey Matt, I can see your harness!
At last, someone scores a telling hit on the other ship and knocks a mast over but wondrously, I can't tell who's winning. Nor does the loss of the mast really matter because as I said, the ships are motionless. No matter how many people are blown up and shot, there seems to be a limitless supply of pirates on either side that swarm up on deck to replace the fallen, all wearing red bandannas and waving their cutlasses in the air and giving a rousing "ARRRR!" The sea battle continues for an interminable amount of time, with both sides shooting and yelling and reloading, and shooting again, to absolutely no effect. Why, this could be another example of...
The God Chorus starts to moan again to clue the audience in on the fact that this could be the greatest and most pivotal battle between good and evil the world may ever see. Neo vs. Agent Smith? Nah. Eowyn vs. The Witch King of Angmar? Fuck that. Geena Davis vs. Dawg Brown. That's where it's at.
Morgan leads a team of boarders to the Reaper, and as we see the ships draw together, I can't see any sign of the mast that was destroyed mostly because nobody gave a shit about continuity when they were making this movie. Still no damage. Nor are there any bodies of the dozens of dead pirates on deck. Does anyone care but me? Is this fight symbolic of Norse myth, where warriors slain in Valhalla are destined to rise from the dead every day to engage in endless warfare? Or do dead pirates just vanish after a minute like the bodies in videogames? Morgan swings on board (hey Geena, I can see your crotch-hugging harness too), and the God Chorus...shuts up.
They just stop singing! Hey! Morgan charges into the fight, dueling with pirates as the score transitions from "Apocalyptic Orchestral Beating" to...a silly Irish jig played on a fiddle. Huh?? You can't go from the Ultimate Showdown music to Riverdance! 15-yard penalty!
Token Black Guy fights alongside Morgan and asks where she's going. Morgan flings her sword across the deck and impales a guy about to shoot them with a rifle and says "to blow out his bottom and get what we came for!" Oooh, kinky. Most chicks I know won't do that. Shaw is also fighting for his life with Dawg's men. He duels with one, kicks him in the gut, and finishes him off with a downward chop right to his spine. Only that's not how it actually happens. You see Modine swing the sword, come nowhere near hitting the guy, and the pirate sells it like he was gored by a razorback in the kidneys. It's such an obvious miss that the foley artist doesn't even add the customary meaty *shlork* noise that accompanies most sword hits. Instead you hear a complete *whiff* sound effect that makes the whole stunt doubly hilarious.
Morgan does a dramatic dive (in which she clearly transforms into a man for a span of four seconds) and goes below decks to (as she says) "blow his bottom out." *snicker* She goes to the powder magazine and sets it ablaze. Strange that one small powder keg destroys a whole building, but a hold full of them does little more than set the poop deck on fire. The explosion traps Shaw below-decks with the treasure, but before Morgan can save him, Dawg calls her out for a one-on-one at last (and the God Chorus returns with vigor).
It's a law in big action movies that the hero and the villain have to abandon sensible places to fight in favor of awkward, absurdly-high places. They duel their way up the mizzenmast, Morgan seemingly suffering no ill effects from being shot and dropped off a cliff earlier in the movie. Dawg slashes her arm and causes her to fall off the mast, down into the cargo hold where the damaged sail conveniently breaks her fall. The evil pirate follows her down and gives his usual "before I kill you" speech. Morgan backs up to a nearby pile of flaming rubble and brandishes a burning stick at him. What follows is beyond my meager skill to recap. This...this is the goofiest thing I've ever seen. Here, just watch:
She whips the covering off a cannon, one that she had no idea was loaded to begin with, and SHOOTS him with it after saying "BAD DAWG!" like it was "Yippie-ki-yay, muthafucka!" Come on, even Schwarzenegger would have asked for something else to say. Maybe "It's been a blast" or "Let's not ARRRRRgue." What's really priceless in this scene is that instead of, y'know, MOVING out of the way, he spends a full five seconds gawking at the cannon with a hilarious "what in the SHIT??" expression, and stays perfectly motionless as she lights the fuse. Okay, then the cannonball sends him rocketing backwards, crashing through every interior wall of the ship, sending him out the back window and into the ocean. Wouldn't the cannonball have just blown clean through him?
Morgan goes down to find that Shaw is drowning, so she dips underwater and does that thing where they kiss to share air. Can you guess what other movie used that exact same gimmick? Any clue at all? Yup, you guessed it! Waterworld! I guess sick minds think alike. Morgan finally gets Shaw free, who says that they need to abandon the treasure because the ship's going to blow up. Why? I don't know; she already destroyed the powder magazine. Maybe it's because everything else blows up in this movie, it's a safe bet.
They run up to the deck of the Reaper, where we can see that the ship isn't sinking at all where before Shaw was in over his head in water. Someone also neatly reefed the sails while they were below. That was nice of whoever it was. Morgan and Shaw emerge outside and run to the aft of the ship to jump into the ocean, when they could have much more easily just run to the side and jumped there! They take great pains to climb up there, pause to stare meaningfully at each other, and jump just as the whole ship explodes like it was packed to the brim with dynamite. There's not nearly enough wreckage floating in the water to account for a ship that big, either.
They somehow manage to dredge up all the stolen treasure which looks remarkably like cheap wood and plastic spray-painted gold. Morgan tells them that they'll divide the treasure equally if they want, but she'd much rather go to Madagascar and keep on pirating. Um, is there much good piracy to be done near Madagascar? The crew (oddly) seems fired up at the prospect of months of miserable life at sea, eating rotten food and coping with scurvy instead of taking their treasure and living like kings for the rest of their lives. I mean, they found the most ultimatest treasure ever. Isn't that the goal of every pirate? You can retire now and not risk your ass every day.
But they all hop to their stations. None of them have sustained any lasting injuries and indeed, after that pitched battle, the ship seems in better condition than when they started! Ah, I guess I'm just a curmudgeonly grouch.
On second thought, it's much more likely that Cutthroat Island licked monkey balls. Yes, that makes more sense. BAD DAWG!