Hard Rain is totally brainless eye candy, a well-made thriller that works in spite of itself. The script is a dramatic abortion with cardboard characterization that lacks all logic or believability, but is high enough on thrills and pace to hide many of the flaws—much like the scripts to Speed (1994 / trailer) and Broken Arrow (1996 / trailer), which also were penned by Hard Rain's scriptwriter Graham Yost.
A definite plus is that none of the actors seem to take the film or themselves too seriously, and the fun they bring to the movie definitely goes a long way. Director Mikaal Salomon’s roots as a cinematographer are obvious in this film, his second full-length film, and his visual talent is fun to watch. In fact, his camera work is often so startlingly good that the viewer cannot help but sit up and take appreciation of the way the scene has just been shot. A good example of one such shot is the one that opens the film, when the camera pans down the mountain used in Paramount Film company logo, through the rain clouds and over hill and dale, down through the town in one long (computer generated) shot.
Luckily, Salomon's talent goes beyond simple eye candy, as he is also able to time the film tightly enough to keep the rollercoaster ride fast, furious and fun. Like the actors, he too seems to know that while the script is shit the film is fun. A hybrid mixture of crime, action and disaster with a light dosage of romance, Hard Rain only finally truly insults the viewer's intelligence during the last three minutes, when they are forced to witness a totally banal and pointless "good news bad news" exchange between the hero and heroine as the semi-bad hero rows off for Belize. (In truth, a braver and more satisfying ending would have had all three paddling off for Belize and no "good news bad news" banter.)
The long opening pan-shot pretty much sets the situation: somewhere in the Midwest—Huntingburg, Indiana we later learn—where a storm is raging and a damn is having its limits tested, Tom (Christian Slater) and his uncle Charlie (Ed Asner) are armored car drivers collecting the money from the various banks in path of the flood. When the van gets bogged down on a flooded road, Jim (Morgen Freeman) and his men try to rob them; two minutes later Charlie is a floater and Tom has disappeared, dragging the money bags behind him. He manages to hide the money, but the bad guys are hard on his tail. Eventually he ends up teaming up with the unnecessary female character and romantic interest (Minnie Driver as Karen) and, after greed goes to the head of the local sheriff (Randy Quaid) and his deputies, he ends up working with Jim, whose gang has gotten dusted. And then, just as one deputy has handcuffed Karen to a stairwell to rape and kill her, and Jim and Tom get cornered in a church, the damn breaks....
Sit back, turn off your brain and enjoy the ride. But whatever you do, don't think!