* (out of 5)
April 8, 2005
Matthew McConaughey as DIRK PITT
Steve Zahn as AL GIORDINO
Penelope Cruz as EVA RJOAS
Lambert Wilson as MASSARDE
Glynn Turman as DR. HOPPER
Delroy Lindo as AGENT CARL
William H. Macy as ADMIRAL JAMES SANDECKER
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Directed by: Breck Eisner
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
When writer Clive Cussler proudly claims to have thrown away seven versions of the “Sahara” script, it isn’t a good sign. On one level, I am tempted to be kind and forgiving to this film. After all, it is just a big, dumb action flick, and I usually berate other critics for being too hard on the popcorn movies. However, “Sahara” so missed its mark with its shaky star power that I just can’t find it in my heart to be kind.
“Sahara” is one of those rare film that is sunk completely as a fault of the cast. All the elements are there for a stunning thriller. Still, the story itself is terribly lacking in consistency and sense. it just goes to show that sometimes Hollywood gets its own formula wrong.
The characters are propelled through the plot with a wild series of cliches, improbabilities and deus ex machina twists that it made me want to throw my hands up in a panic, yelling “Uncle! Uncle!” as I ran from the theater.
I’ve never read Clive Cussler’s original novel, but from what I gather that’s not going to make much of a difference in this film. Supposedly, he’s in litigation with the studio for not giving him script approval.
The role of Cussler’s trademarked action hero Dirk Pitt had been offered to several A-list actors while in development hell. For some strange reason, the part eventually went to Matthew McConaughey. Sure, McConaughey fits the mold as the sexy male lead, but he’s never carried a movie by himself. He’s just lacking the “it” factor that makes Tom Cruise, Will Smith and Nicholas Cage such bankable names.
McConaughey plays a treasure hunter, searching for a Confederate battleship that supposedly sailed to Africa after the Civil War. Penelope Cruz is a W.H.O. doctor tracking down the source of a mysterious plague. While some may think these two would cross paths easily, the plot stretches awfully thin to make their lives merge.
Yes, I will admit that Penelope Cruz is a beautiful woman. But she was made more to be a model than an actress. Cruz is often compared to her latina counterpart Salma Hayek. However, there is a vast difference between the two. While they are both Latin beauties, Salma Hayek can actually act. When Hayek first started in American cinema, she was only hampered by her accent. But after a while. Cruz, on the other hand, is nothing but a rough accent covering bad acting.
Another difference between Hayek and Cruz is that Salma Hayek is beautiful no matter how you light and shoot her. You could light the lady by sticking a pen light up her nose, and she’s still be stunning. Cruz, on the other hand, has a very peculiar face. With the right hair and make-up and under the correct lighting conditions, she’s pretty. But if all things are not perfect, she looks like a ten-year-old boy. This might be titillating for the Michael Jackson crowd, but it leaves me cold.
Steve Zahn, who is funny enough on his own, is awkwardly thrust into the film for comic relief. It’s a shame to see his talent go to waste. The same goes for William H. Macy.
Lambert Wilson, whom I loved as the malevolent warlord in the Matrix films, plays a wealthy industrialist who is inadvertently poisoning the world’s water supply. This plot would be scary if it wasn’t so ludicrous, and the science behind the whole danger is so preposterous that it makes the drivel spilt by the doctors on “General Hospital” sound accurate.
Ultimately, “Sahara” tries to be too cool. While a large portion of the film takes place in Africa, there are relatively few African influences to the soundtrack. Instead, much of the “traveling music” is taken from 1970s classic rock. While I love classic rock, the songs that are chosen in this film are so generic and common that you hear nothing special. By bombarding us with licks from classic rock standy-bys like “Sweet Home Alabama,” this is more like listening to a “Best of the 70s” CD than a major motion picture.
Of course, it could have been worse. It could have starred Steven Seagal.