Some Captain Morgan Would Have Helped
In fairness I haven't seen all of director Renny Harlin's movies but the ones I have seen such as "Die Hard 2", "Cliffhanger" and "The Long Kiss Goodnight" have been all about the action and that is exactly what "Cutthroat Island" is all about as well. It may have a pirate story which sees a sexy female pirate and her handsome young slave going in search of pirate treasure but the storyline isn't really of importance. But sadly rather than making "Cutthroat Island" a thrilling action movie it is cheesy from beginning to end with corny dialogue and action which is all about slow motion and big bangs. In fact "Cutthroat Island" almost gets to the point that it's so bad that it becomes good, with humour coming from things which I am sure weren't designed to be funny.
Having been given a piece of a treasure map by her father, Morgan Adams (Geena Davis - A League of Their Own) and her slave, William Shaw (Matthew Modine - Memphis Belle) are after the other parts of the map so that they can find the hidden pirate treasure. But in order to do so she must first get one piece from her Uncle and then somehow get the other piece off of evil pirate Dawg (Frank Langella) who is also looking for the other pieces. To make matters worse she also inherited her father's boat and crew who are read to mutiny against her and on top of that there is also the British crown who wants to bring Morgan to justice.
Now as already mentioned "Cutthroat Island" maybe a pirate story about pirate treasure but it is a story which is both unimportant and convoluted. And to be honest it's not that original either as we have a good pirate fighting a bad pirate as well as the authorities which are aiming to stop all pirates. Whilst it may have come after "Pirates of the Caribbean" is certainly a better version of this storyline and frankly much older swashbuckling pirate movies are also much better. Even with the sort of twist of having a sexy female pirate does little to make this tale more interesting.
But then the storyline to "Cutthroat Island" was only ever really there for director Renny Harlin to deliver one big action scene after another. And to be honest that is what Harlin does be it watching Morgan and Shaw destroy a town as they try to escape the British authorities or watching Morgan and Dawg try and blow each other's boat out of the water. But despite a plethora of action scenes none of it is really that exciting, the thrill of being a swashbuckling adventure never manifests itself and what is worse pretty much all of the action ends up very cheesy. It's cheesy because pretty much every action scene is built around 3 things big explosions, slow motion and some actor grimacing and as such it always feels forced.
And that leads to another issue because along with the action a lot of the dialogue is as equally cheesy and I am sure intentionally so as "Cutthroat Island" wants to be funny. But the thing is that being cheesy isn't actually that funny and the few non cheesy jokes don't really come off. It ends up making "Cutthroat Island" surprisingly dull, not thrilling, not funny and not very good and it is also quite disjointed as one slow mo action scene after another ruins any momentum it builds.
What is a great shame is Geena Davis could have made for a wonderful sexy pirate and as Morgan she almost pulls it off with that mix of being sexy and feisty but then everything she does is spoilt by the cheesy dialogue and all the forced grimacing. And in a same way Matthew Modine could have made for an Errol Flynn style swashbuckling partner but ends up being seriously cheesy because of all that corny dialogue. It goes on because every single actor be it Frank Langella as evil pirate Dawg through to Angus Wright as Captain Trotter could have delivered far greater characters if only everything they had to say and do wasn't so cheesy.
What this all boils down to is that "Cutthroat Island" may have been a nice idea but it turned out to be a bad movie. It ends up being to corny and not swashbuckling enough relying on big explosions and slow motion action to try and wow audiences which it rarely achieves. If you want a pirate movie either watch John Depp in "Pirates of the Caribbean" or go back to the 30s when Tyrone Power was delivering swashbuckling action and adventure.