Cutthroat Island (1995) - Rotten Tomatoes

Cutthroat Island1995

Cutthroat Island (1995)



Critic Consensus: Cutthroat Island may aspire towards the earnest thrills of classic swashbucklers, but a distinct lack of charm and stilted script make this adventure a joyless hodgepodge of the pirate genre's flotsam and jetsam.

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Movie Info

Geena Davis stars in this adventure saga as the most swashbuckling female pirate to ever lay waste to the seven seas. Morgan Adams (Davis) is the daughter of a pirate who has followed in her father's footsteps. When he dies, he passes along his ship, a crew of bandits, and one third of a treasure map (which happens to be tattooed on his skull). Morgan is eager to search out the rest of the map and retrieve the riches, but the fragment she holds is in Latin. Morgan then buys a well-educated slave, William Shaw (Matthew Modine), who can read the ancient language and already has a taste for the criminal life. However, Morgan and William are not long into their search when they discover that someone else is following the same trail for the rest of the treasure map: Dawg Brown (Frank Langella), Morgan's uncle and as black-hearted a scurvy dog as ever boarded a ship. As Morgan and Dawg battle each other over the fragments of the map, a British journalist (Maury Chaykin) covers their feud for the penny press. William Shaw was originally to have been played by Michael Douglas, who dropped out in the early stages of this troubled production.

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Geena Davis
as Morgan Adams
Matthew Modine
as William Shaw
Frank Langella
as Dawg Brown
Maury Chaykin
as John Reed
Stan Shaw
as Glasspoole
Rex Linn
as Mr. Blair
Paul Dillon
as Snelgrave
Harris Yulin
as Black Harry
Carl Chase
as Bishop
Peter Geeves
as Fiddler Pirate
Angus Wright
as Captain Trotter
Ken Bones
as Toussant
Mary Pegler
as Mandy Rickets
Thomas Lockyer
as Lieutenant
Roger Booth
as Auctioneer
George Murcell
as Mordachai Fingers
Christopher Adamson
as Dawg's Pirate
Simon Atherton
as Bartender
Dickey Beer
as Executioner
Richard Leaf
as Snake the Lookout
Tam White
as Fleming
Rupert Vansittart
as Captain Perkins
Nick Bartlett
as Dawg's Pirate
David Bailie
as Dawg's Pirate
Kwame Kwei-Armah
as Dawg's Pirate
Ramon Tikaram
as Dawg's Pirate
Chris Adamson
as Dawg's Pirate
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News & Interviews for Cutthroat Island

Critic Reviews for Cutthroat Island

All Critics (40) | Top Critics (10)

What seemed like a dubious proposition on paper plays even more dubiously onscreen, as "Cutthroat Island" strenuously but vainly attempts to revive the thrills of old-fashioned pirate pictures.

March 26, 2009

In this $90m revisionist swashbuckler, we get Geena Davis doing the all-action honours, and a hotchpotch script that seems to think pirate movies are so funny in themselves the need for more humour is superfluous.

February 9, 2006 | Full Review…

t's not possible to believe that Ms. Davis is the highly respected captain of a pirate ship, and it's not even fun to try.

May 20, 2003

If the sight of half-naked, tattooed sailors firing cannons at each other shivers your timbers, climb aboard. Even passable pirate movies don't sail by every day.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 2.5/4

It is a pirate picture, pure and simple, and doesn't transcend its genre except perhaps in the luxurious production. Leaner and meaner pirate movies have worked more or less as well, but this one gets the job done.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

It takes a two-hour act of will to keep facing the screen during this moribund movie.

January 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Cutthroat Island


Now this was back in the day when Renny Harlin was still a reasonably good director of sorts, think hard. This was also a time when Geena Davis was still a famous-ish star with her own action vehicles, remember her?. For this bombastic pirate adventure she teams up with the American version of Cary Elwes in Matthew Modine and together they sail the seven seas blowing the shit outta everything...this must have influenced Michael Bay's little brain in ways we can't imagine, oh wait. So Geena Davis is the daughter of a pirate who betroths to her a treasure map on his deathbed which shows Cutthroat Island to be a treasure island. Guess what! off she goes to find this treasure with her fathers scurvy band of errrrrm...cutthroats, aboard her fathers ship. Oh and there are some other pieces of the map to find first naturally, whatever. But what pirate flick would be complete without a scenery chewing baddie to pursue the hero/heroine, I swear could this film be anymore cliche? (don't answer that). Batten down the hatches mateys...errr, etc...It strange to think this film actually bombed as it did because in all fairness its virtually no different from the now famous Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Yeah it is! take a gander, both films have plenty of massive action set pieces including sword fights, jungle antics and galleon battles, of course you have a wide variety of dirty ugly crew members, the dashing hero and the sultry heroine both of whom are a dab hand at sword fighting, side kicks, monkeys, treasure and various olde worlde nautical pirating names for things. This film plays out very much in the same way as the overblown Depp franchise with similar characters and similar visuals, heck had this not failed then I'm sure we would have had similar sequels too. 'PotC' definitely followed suit from this film I have no doubt, the difference being star power, backing and timing I guess as the plots aren't too dissimilar really. 'PotC' became a convoluted haphazard of a franchise over time, at least Cutthroat was straight forward. Where this film does fail in my eyes is the fact it feels just like a regular action flick that just happens to be set in the 16th Century. Davis the heroine goes around kicking everyone's ass whilst getting out of some of the most audacious scrapes you ever seen since Milla Jovovich went up against some musketeers. The whole thing starts off OK and you can accept the fact there's gonna need to be some suspension of disbelief required but Jesus Christ! things go from being semi reasonable to totally outrageous as the invincible Davis virtually back flips her way through the film. But nothing here feels genuine, you could take all of it and stick it in the present day and you wouldn't notice a difference, the period setting is just for visual kicks. Everything just feels so setup and false its terrible, the visuals on the whole are average at best. It all seems to vary depending on the scene, most of the port/building set sequences, either interior or exterior, just look like what they are, sets ready to be blown up, burnt down or wrecked. You can almost see the props ready to go, you can certainly see stunt doubles and safety harnesses. The location sequences do look good as you'd expect with sunny locals and they add much needed authenticity. Where the film does deserve praise are the well constructed ships we see. Now despite the ludicrous ship battles where cannons are fired by the shit load yet no damage is seen, the ships themselves do look pretty good. The highlight of the entire film being the moment one ship is blown to smithereens which does look impressive if I do say so myself. I won't linger on the fact that our two heroes dove off that ship just as it explodes which I'm pretty sure would cut them to pieces with flying debris and big ass splinters. There's no real tension or excitement because you know who's gonna die and who's gonna survive. The fact that Davis is the butch hardass heroine (not particularly sexy at all) and Modine is the weaker bumbling love interest is possibly about the only semi decent aspect in the film really. Modine has those classic Errol looks but he isn't the classic dashing hero really, he needs rescuing most of the time in a neat role reversal which sees him as the damsel in distress of sorts. I mean yeah its nothing major in terms of a plot twist but its at least something in a sea of cliched action crap. Most of the other cast/crew members are your stereotypical salty dogs, most have beards, scraggly long hair, some are bald, the token big black tribal guy, a bloke seems to have Maori tattoos on his face which was quite cool admittedly, eye patches, the odd wooden leg and one guy seems to have a retractable chain for an arm which seems out of place. Then you have the British who...well what do you think, they are all exactly like the British in 'PofC'. The only real stand out character must be Langella as the baddie pirate 'Dawg Brown' (yep that's his name). Now Langella is clearly having a ball as he chews up every scene he's in with gusto. It actually gets to a point where Langella is over acting so much, having so much fun as he growls, barks and roars with evilness, that situations become comedic pantomime in nature. Langella is virtually beating his chest as he looks up to the skies in one scene, its hilarious! but not good for the films tension really. This really is your typical predictable action blockbuster that doesn't offer any kind of real tension thrills or excitement because we all know the very obvious outcome before its even started. Its like 'Waterworld' in the sense that its purely and simply all about effects and big stunts yet nothing more, the whole film could easily be a spectacular Universal Studious live show (just like 'Waterworld'). At no point do you ever really care about any character or their adventure because its all a cliched rollercoaster, did you really think Modine or Davis' characters would get killed off? or any of the main pirate crew cast? hell even that little monkey makes it. This film really reminds me of the mid 90's and a time when very simple dumb cloned action flicks still got cinema releases (*cough!*...'Broken Arrow'?...*cough!*) . They were all the same kind of spiel but in a different location or merely with a new duo in the lead roles, same idea, new face combination. The plot and dialog is nothing more than filler simply moving us from one big setup to the next, and what dialog we do get is loaded with God awful snappy quickfire quips that make you cringe. The only one damn thing this film didn't manage to include and pillage was the most iconic visual pirate cliche ever...a parrot. 'Bad Dawg!'

Phil Hubbs
Phil Hubbs

Super Reviewer

It has got to be one of the cheesiest Pirate movies to ever be put on screen, but by the end of the film you can appreciate it for what it was. The film feels like it is very self-aware of itself, which I love, and the action does not disappoint, even though it is very very over-the-top. The acting is not that great and the bad one liners make me cringe, but it is pretty funny to watch at times. The story is not original in any way, but it is kind of forgivable. I enjoyed some of this movie, but some scenes just bored me to death. "Cutthroat Island" is a guilty pleasure one time around, but that is about it.

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer


Renny Harlin updates the Flynn classic swashbucklers by a) casting a female, Geena Davis, as the lead, and b) injecting more "boom!" into the mix with a lot of pyrotechnics. It almost works. Its a brash, brawling pirate film alright and sorta fun alright but it somehow fails to connect. Matt Modine plays the Flynn part okay, Flynn in the supporting position instead of as the lead, which is disconcerting, but maybe what's missing more in the film is the objective: the Flynn pirates took the gold too, but were actually "fighting for England!" or "freedom!" or some such and not simply the booty ...

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

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