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Dead Calm Movie Review

neill kidman psycho vessel

Nicole Kidman and Sam Neill are a cute couple, but I wouldn't get in a car with her or on a boat with either one of them. Five minutes into Dead Calm, her baby is hurled through a windshield. There is actually no reason for this sequence except to establish why Kidman and Neill go on a sea cruise alone to recover. It also prepares you for the violence this accident-prone couple will experience throughout the rest of the film. When a psycho (screechingly overacted by Billy Zane) rows over to their boat from his own doomed vessel, Neill doesn't believe their visitor's tall tale of botulism and death from contaminated salmon. Neill rows to the vessel to investigate, leaving Kidman and their pet dog alone with the psycho. (Warning: don't get too attached to that mutt.) You see, Neill has 25 years experience at sea, but you'll have to take his word for it. For a small craft skipper, he is constantly endangering his boat, his crew, and himself. He spends what seems like half the movie trying to save himself from drowning by breaking down a vessel door he had no reason to go through at all. Meanwhile, Kidman and that psycho just never can seem to get along. He beats her up, rapes her, kicks down doors, and destroys her radio. She drugs his lemonade, shoots him with an arrow, ties him up, and tries to throw him overboard. Australian director Phillip Noyce, also responsible for the 1986 dud Echoes of Paradise, telegraphs each move by all three well in advance. Try to imagine the dumbest thing any of them can do and sure enough, there it is, right onscreen. Was the Charles Williams novel this much of a mess? Tantalizing Back Story: one of Orson Welles’ many unfinished films was an earlier version of Dead Calm entitled Dead Reckoning, starring Jeanne Moreau and himself in the Kidman/Neill roles and Laurence Harvey as the psycho. Financing and/or Harvey's early death scuttled the project, although footage from this incomplete work survives.

1989 (R) 97m/C AU Sam Neill, Billy Zane, Nicole Kidman, Rod Mullinar; D: Phillip Noyce; W: Terry Hayes; C: Dean Semler; M: Graeme Revell. VHS, LV, 8mm, Letterbox, Closed Caption, DVD

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