According to Judge Bill Gibron, there's only one thing worse than being stranded alone on a deserted island...and it's this mind-bogglingly mediocre movie.
Three arrive…one survives…and it's not the audience
Wired workaholic Jack Matson (Billy Zane, Titanic) and his fetching wife Jennifer (Kelly Brook, Smallville) decide to take one of those private yacht cruises that only disgustingly wealthy couples can afford. They bring along a pair of plot-necessary friends and set about sinning on the high seas. Meanwhile, below deck, a pissed-off purser named Manuel (Juan Pablo Di Pace) is trying to convince Mr. Fawlty—no, wait, wrong Manuel. This macho Manny is an unlovable loser who slaps his woman before leaving on the voyage, and she doesn't take kindly to being manhandled that way. Before you know it, she's stomping it Santeria style and casting a curse over everyone on board. As fate and farm animal entrails would have it, the boat catches fire, sinks, and strands Jennifer and Manny on a cute and cozy deserted island. Naturally their needs collide. He wants to get frisky. She's desperate for something to wear other than her white string bikini. They banter. They barter. Just before they get down to the heavy "negotiations," Jack turns up. Sunburnt and ever so angry, he senses something sexual is going on between his spouse and the hired help. Soon chests are flaring and egos are exploding as both men vie for Jennifer's jaded affection. Who lives and who dies is not as important as who makes the best beachside sashimi as life on Survival Island goes from bad to worse to worthless.
Let's begin with the basics, shall we? If all you are interested in when subjecting yourself to the anti-entertainment elements of Survival Island is the opportunity to see leading lady Kelly Brook's 32E "specialties," you better look hard and look quick. Ms. Mega Mammaries only exposes her ample bosom a couple of times in this otherwise skinless mess, the rest of the time saddling her she-sacks in bikinis that barely cover up her natural, pendulous assets. As a matter of fact, there is just as much misguided male derrière here as gal glands. Though the set-up would suggest that this is a regular Skinemax erotica-thon, the truth is far more fleshless. In truth, Survival Island is a sloppy combination of Dead Calm, Swept Away, and a myriad of mindless "two men and a hot chick" testosterone-fueled flops that play on an audiences' morbid curiosity with flawed fantasy fodder. This is the kind of movie that announces its intentions right off the bat: rich couple coolly looking down at the Latino cabin boy serving their chummy chartered cruise; hot-tempered honey who responds to being rejected by our Hispanic hunk by throwing a voodoo curse on his libido; the accidental if paranormally purposeful disaster at sea; the eventual arrival on a deserted island; the savage sexual tension; the laughably lame dialogue; a few fights; an unexpected death, and, of course, a cruel twist at the end.
Survival Island does indeed have all these flawed facets, many of them appearing in tsunami-sized spades. Once you look at the name behind this nonsense, however, the rationale for its retardation becomes abundantly clear. Writer/director Stuart Raffill may be best remembered for his early '80s atrocities The Ice Pirates, The Philadelphia Experiment, Mannequin 2: On the Move, and the infamous E.T. ripoff Mac and Me. With that kind of tainted track record, it's a wonder that this oceanic offal makes any sense whatsoever. It's clear that Raffill doesn't know the first thing about writing interesting or sympathetic characters. His sleazy threesome—Billy Zane's macho meathead, Brooks' brain-dead bimbette, and Juan Pablo Di Pace's regressed Ricky Ricardo—are hateable almost from the moment we meet them and get even more despicable as the preposterous plot chugs along. Unbelievable doesn't begin to describe Raffill's narrative. Instead of trying desperately to get off the island, this trio spends inordinately large amounts of time bickering like grade-schoolers after a group detention. Zane loves his wife, yet never really believes that she's not bonking Manuel. Perhaps it's because Brook is unfathomably bad at playing coy. She delivers every line with an emotional expression so blank that you wonder if her breasts are somehow cutting off the oxygen to her face.
Then there is Di Pace. If this is his real accent, Jose Jimenez has a potential copyright lawsuit on his hands. If it's a put-on, then all Hispanics should gather together to class action his ass. Manuel is supposed to be scum—we've already seen him beat up his pregnant girlfriend back at the docks—and when confronted over his hyper-extended libido, he turns into the softcore version of Forrest Hump—"horny is as horny does." He is so unlikable, so riddled with clichés, and so stereotypical that, for the sake of all Spanish-speaking people everywhere, we just want him dead. That wouldn't be such a tough request except that Raffill fails to understand the basics of the thriller. He has to give us someone to hate, someone who's expendable, and someone to root for. Put all three together, toy with the dramatic possibilities for a while, and then lay on the fiery finale. Unfortunately, Survival Island makes everyone an a-hole, renders each character completely superfluous, and ends up making us cheer for a psychotic voodoo priestess who is occasionally seen doing a lame version of the Lambada with herself. Nothing works here—not the sex, the violence, or the vicarious thrill of seeing Kelly Brook's lady lumps. Maybe in the days when The Blue Lagoon gave audiences an underage thrill they should have been ashamed of, something like this would work. But today, Survival Island is just a solid shipwreck of a film. It should be buried at sea. That's where all dead fish belong.
Somehow, Showtime picked up on this dreary disaster, changed its name (it originally went by the far more generic label of Three), and gave it a pay-channel showcase before offering it to DVD consumers everywhere. The technical aspects of the release are actually pretty sound. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is significantly sun-drenched and loaded with faraway vistas and endless horizons. While some of the visuals are soft and sort of muddy, the overall image quality is fairly decent. Similarly, the Dolby Digital 5.1 utilizes some of its available channel for background ambience (surf, the rustle of wind) while the 2.0 Stereo is standard cinematic stuff. With just a minor collection of added content—a photo gallery and some flimsy filmographies—and a major made-for-cable vibe coming off the case, this subpar softcore is more filler than thriller. You'll get antsier over Billy Zane's scenery chewing than any narrative device offered here.
Had the stunted Stewart Raffill simply gone for broke and turned this goofy Gilligan's Island into one massively murderous carnal Cast Away, we'd have a groovy guilty pleasure on our hands. As it stands, Survival Island would be Lost without a certain starlet's lungs. Relying on cleavage alone has never been a successful cinematic formula. Just ask Jessica Simpson.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Showtime Entertainment
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