Shout! Factory // 1980 // 114 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // March 1st, 2013
For hundreds of years, a terrifying secret has been kept from the outside world.
Blair Maynard (Michael Caine, The Dark Knight Rises) is an investigative journalist whose curiosity is piqued by a story involving dozens of ships disappearing in the Caribbean. On a trip to the island of Navidad, Blair and his son Justin (Jeffrey Frank) are kidnapped by a long lost band of pirates who have been able to stay out of the civilized world's eye for generations. Led by the vicious John David Nau (David Warner, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), the pirates squirrel Justin away to be brainwashed while Blair is shackled in the village and forced to procreate with the local women to carry on the pirate's bloodline. With his son under John David's influence and being forced to get it on with a lot of terrifying women, Blair must devise an escape plan before they become permanent buccaneers.
The Island is to Jaws what Mac and Me is to E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. The film was released in the summer of 1980 in the hopes it would become a blockbuster like a certain movie featuring a certain razor toothed shark. Unfortunately, it met with middling reviews and even worse box office receipts. This early '80s action-horror-thriller mash-up just didn't click with audiences, even with the headline "From the writer of Jaws" thrust into potential movie-goers faces.
Heading into The Island, I had hoped for a long forgotten gem, some undiscovered genre flick that would be like finding a diamond in the rough. Sadly, the older I get the more I realize there's a specific reason some films don't get much positive word of mouth. In this case, it's because The Island not a very good movie. Certainly the idea behind the film is a solid one: a father and son end up in the hands of a band of pirates who have never encountered civilization (save for looting and killing the passengers of other boats that wander into their territory). The plot is rife with potential, yet the script squanders its tantalizing possibilities by focusing on the protagonists trying to escape from the island. Seriously, the whole thing seems to be Michael Caine picking locks, shooting flare guns into the sky, and furiously swimming for freedom. At each turn he's captured, which makes it all the more confusing why the pirates don't just draw and quarter the guy to get him out of their hair.
None of the characters endear themselves to the viewer. We're never given a chance to really know Blair or Justin (save for a scene with the two fishing together), so their plight never resonates. The pirates are mostly faceless villains, save for David Warner who looks so thin and frail I kept wishing someone would give the guy a sandwich from the catering truck. The pirates don't really look sufficiently grimy enough, so they sort of end up looking like central casting actors the costumers dressed up as pirates. The action scenes are nothing to write home about either. Except for a rather bloody opening and an ending straight out of the recent Rambo sequel, the movie never offers up much in the way of excitement.
When the The Island isn't drenched in blood and gore, it seems to revel in absolute ridiculousness. One scene features a young yuppie from one of ships the pirates overtake, attempting to fend off the assailants with kung fu, complete with sound effects and vocal tics right out of the worst martial arts movies. The story is rife with plot holes. How is it that no one has seen these pirates, if they keep running into 20th century boats all the time? At one point it's mentioned they need new blood to carry on their bloodline, but if it's already been 300 years, how are they not all drooling inbreeds by now? Maybe it's just me, but I find it hard to believe that a child as old as Justin could be brainwashed so deeply and easily that he'd be willing to shoot a hapless man in the head at point blank range. Director Michael Ritchie (Fletch) should have taken a little extra time to make sure the screenplay's holes were plugged up before putting it before the camera.
Presented in 2.35:1/1080p high definition widescreen, Shout! Factory offers up a better-than-average transfer. The image is bright and clear with dark black levels. There's a bit of grain throughout, but overall this Blu-ray will please fans. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track shows there's been some work done to throw in directional effects, most of which work well and don't come across as overly artificial. Dialogue, music, and effects are all clearly heard and easily distinguished. Also included is a DTS-HD 2.0 track and English subtitles. The only extras are a trailer and a standard def DVD copy.
The Island isn't terrible so much as a wasted opportunity, a toothless horror-thriller that's neither horrifying or thrilling. There are a lot more pirate movies far worthier of your time.
Guilty. This is no vacation.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
Running Time: 114 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* DVD Copy