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Cutthroat Island is a 1995 pirate movie starring Geena Davis and directed by her then-husband Renny Harlin. The film has gone down in history as one of the biggest box office flops of all time; in the same league as the likes of The Adventures of Pluto Nash, Caligula, Cleopatra, Heavens Gate, and Ishtar. It wasn't that the film failed to sell tickets. It earned 10-11 million dollars in the United States market alone, the 108th most successful film of its year. But when your budget is closer to 115 million, do the math. The film's failure effectively led to the closure of Carolco Pictures. The film is thus regarded as one of the last whose failure actually destroyed the studio that produced it. The film also killed the bankability of the pirate genre, which wasn't revived until Pirates of the Caribbean took off. Although it dented their careers at the time, Davis and Harlin both seem to have gotten on more or less okay in the long run.
Female pirate Morgan Adams (Geena Davis) and her educated slave, William Shaw (Matthew Modine), are on a quest to recover the three portions of a treasure map. The treasure is hidden on the mysterious Cutthroat Island. Unfortunately, the final portion is held by her villainous uncle, Douglas ('Dawg') Brown (Frank Langella). Her crew is skeptical of her leadership abilities, so she must complete her quest before they mutiny against her. This is made more difficult by the efforts of the Royal Navy from Jamaica under the command of the self-serving Governor Ainslee (Patrick Malahide) to end her piratical career. On her ship, Morning Star, Morgan starts the voyage to Cutthroat Island.
This film provides examples of:
- Action Dress Rip: Geena pulls the skirt off her dress whilst being pursued by guards in Port Royal.
- Chain Pain: One of Dawg's men has chain in the place of his hand.
- Dismantled MacGuffin: The treasure map
- Flynning: Shaw does this at first, since he'd never previously learned how to do any serious fighting.
- Evil Uncle: Dawg, a particular mean one.
- Heel Face Turn: Trotter, near the end. "There's no future in the army for me." It's a bit of a weird one, as he's leaving the British military to become a pirate, so technically it's a Face Heel Turn (from a law-abiding point of view).
- Hoist by His Own Petard: It's kind of satisfying to see that chain-wielding bastard dragged down by the anchor.
- Human Notepad: One-third of a treasure map is tattooed on the scalp of the heroine's father. After he gets killed at the beginning of the movie, she cuts it off of him and takes it with her, as he'd instructed while dying.
- I Don't Like the Sound of That Place
- Incredibly Lame Pun: "Bad Dawg."
- It Works Better with Bullets: Morgan does this to a bounty hunter who is after her at the start of the movie. After bedding him, she steals the balls from his pistols.
- Land in the Saddle: Geena Davis (not her stunt double) races through a building on the 2nd story and somersaults out a window, landing in the passenger seat of a speeding horse drawn carriage.
- Large Ham: Watch Frank Langella have a whale of a time as he chews the scenery with aplomb.
- Patrick Malahide as the governor also counts, especially in scenes where he has to berate Trotter.
- Made a Slave: Doctor Shaw didn't start out a slave... he was sold into slavery as punishment for seducing the teenaged daughter of his employer.
- Made of Explodium
- Mook Lieutenant: Lieutenant Trotter
- Pirate Girl: Morgan
- The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Notably averted. The main characters final moment is them sailing to "the best piracy waters in the world" (somewhere near Madagascar). Some have pointed that this might in fact be a reason why the movie flopped, since the audience would expect the plot to follow the usual cliche of "good guy is somehow forced into piracy but leaves it at the end".
- Powder Trail
- Serrated Blade of Pain: The main villain wields a highly intimidating serrated cutlass.
- Smug Snake. Governor Ainslee
- Stuff Blowing Up
- Treasure Map