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From the Past

Films on the to-do list

  • Armageddon Time
  • Black Widow
  • Chimes at Midnight
  • The Killing of a Sacred Deer
  • Last Christmas
  • Remember Sunday
  • Shazam! 2
  • Thor: Love and Thunder
  • Spy Guys

Cutthroat Island (1995)

Film review: Cutthroat Island (1995), directed by Renny Harlin

When pirate Black Harry (Harris Yulin) dies, his daughter Morgan (Geena Davis) is left with a piece of a treasure map. Her two uncles have the other two. In order to find the Biggest Treasure Ever on the legendary Cutthroat Island she needs the other two pieces, and she also needs her own map translating – so she comes across lying, thieving Shaw (Matthew Modine), who at least claims to know Latin.

Together with a crew full of pirates, a ship, a cutlass and a pet monkey, Morgan has to try and find the island and the treasure, especially since evil uncle Dawg (Frank Langella) is hot on her trail.

What follows is a pirate adventure with enough explosions to make me double-check if it wasn’t directed by Michael Bay. (It wasn’t, but I found out Renny Harlin is Finnish, which is nice.)

Also stARRRRing Maury Chaykin, Patrick Malahide, Stan Shaw, Rex Linn, Paul Dillon, Chris Masterson and Jimmie F Skaggs.

Made before the Pirates of the Caribbean made pirate films cool again, Cutthroat Island is widely regarded as a flop. Because it was. There are people who will argue on the Internet about whether or not the Pirates of the Caribbean films ripped off Cutthroat Island. Because, err, there are pirates, a big hoard of gold, explosions, and … well, basically anything that are standard ingredients in a pirate film.

Sadly, some of the acting is very flat, and the special effects have not aged well – when Morgan is thrown backwards down in a tavern, you can see the greenish tint of badly aged green screen work. My spontaneous thought there was “oh dear” and I wasn’t expecting it to get better. To be fair, the rest of the stunts are good, and the explosions are … explosive.

There are a lot of explosions in this film. If anything can go boom, it will. If I had a quid for every time something blew up, I could easily buy a KFC bucket, and I don’t mean the value one. Like I pointed out earlier, I had to double-check that the film wasn’t directed by Michael Bay – it was that explosive. So, if you like explosions … Actually, I like watching a good film explosion, but you can have a bit too much of the good stuff as well.

But overall, it’s a big adventure, if not providing as many chuckles as Jack Sparrow and crew, but it’s fun to see a woman at the helm of a pirate ship and kicking ass. Just a shame she’s just about the only female in the film who has a speaking role.

Overall, it’s an action-packed pirate flick about treasure maps, buried treasures, ships, pirate rivalry and all that, but it feels very standard. If you’ve seen one pirate film, you’ve seen them all, is the feeling I’m left with. Still, I can’t deny being entertained. If you like spectacular adventure films, this is it! It really isn’t that bad.

3 out of 5 handcuffs.


An easily distracted and over-excited introvert who never learns to go to bed at a reasonable time. Enjoys traveling (when there's not a plague on), and taking photos of European architecture. Cares for cats, good coffee and Boardwalk Empire. A child of her time, she did media studies in school and still can't decide what she wants to be when she grows up.

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