The River Wild
- Not to be confused with Wild River.
|The River Wild|
Original theatrical poster
|Directed by||Curtis Hanson|
|Produced by||Lawrence Turman
|Written by||Denis O'Neill|
John C. Reilly
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith
Maurice Jarre (rejected theme)
|Editing by||David Brenner
|Distributed by||Universal Studios|
|Running time||108 minutes|
American Sign Language
The River Wild is a 1994 adventure crime-thriller film directed by Curtis Hanson and starring Meryl Streep, Kevin Bacon, Benjamin Bratt, David Strathairn, John C. Reilly, and Joseph Mazzello. The film involves a family on a whitewater rafting trip who encounter two violent criminals in the wilderness.
A Boston couple, Gail (Meryl Streep) and Tom (David Strathairn) are having marital problems, due to Tom's inability to spend time with his family because of his work as an architect. Gail, a rafting expert, decides to take their son Roarke (Joseph Mazzello) on a holiday rafting trip down the Salmon River in Idaho, along with their pet dog, Maggie. Their daughter Willa (Stephanie Sawyer) accompanies them to Gail's parents' house in Idaho. At the last minute, just when they are about to leave for the almost week-long trip, Tom joins them. As they are setting off, they meet a couple of other rafters, Wade (Kevin Bacon) and Terry (John C. Reilly), who appear to be friendly. Thus Gail, Tom, and Roarke leave for the trip, leaving Willa behind to be taken care of by her grandparents.
After a day's rafting, the family make camp for the night, but Tom continues to work on his renderings rather than entering fully into the experience. This agitates Roarke, who thinks that his father does not really seem to realize he is away from home. They are joined by Wade and Terry who help to celebrate Roarke's birthday the same night. Gail becomes friendly with Wade. However, after a while he begins acting suspicious and she decides it would be best to part ways. During the morning's rafting, he reveals to Roarke that they have a gun with them. As they raft down the river his parents discuss an exit strategy that will allow them to leave the two men behind, and at lunch the family attempts to leave on their raft and get away before Wade and Terry realize what is going on.
Their attempt fails and Wade pulls the gun on them and assaults Tom. The family's dog runs off during the melee, avoiding a shot by Wade. Gail then realizes that an armed robbery she had heard about was actually carried out by Wade and Terry, and Wade and Terry's rafting trip is actually a way for the two to get away. The family is forced to raft at gunpoint down the rest of the river before they all set up camp for the night.
A park ranger named Johnny (Benjamin Bratt), who knows Gail, is white water canoeing down the river. He bumps into the group. Wade holds the gun to Gail's back and they pretend everything is okay. Later, Johnny appears again. Wade shoots him and throws him into the rapids.
Wade and Terry want to go down the river to a set of rapids where rafting is no longer allowed, because in recent years one person was killed and another was left paralyzed. They force Gail to raft down through the rapids despite her repeated attempts to flip the raft and so force them out of the river.
During the night Tom attempts to steal the gun off the sleeping Terry but is heard and has to run into the bushes and to the river. Wade gives chase and believes he has shot him when he hears a loud splash into the water.
Tom reappears, reunites with the dog, and manages to flip the raft. Gail and Roarke, who have been tied to the raft by Wade, remain in it and manage to get hold of the gun, which had fallen into the water, while Tom is fighting Terry. The struggle ends when Gail throws the bag of money into the water and shoots Wade whose dead body floats off down the river. The film ends with the family and Terry (who has been arrested) being helicoptered out.
- Meryl Streep as Gail
- Kevin Bacon as Wade
- David Strathairn as Tom
- Joseph Mazzello as Roarke
- John C. Reilly as Terry
- Benjamin Bratt as Ranger Johnny
- Elizabeth Hoffman as Gail's Mother
- Diane Delano as Ranger
- William Lucking as Frank
- Paul Cantelon as Violinist
- Glenn Morshower as Policeman
- Stephanie Sawyer as Willa
- Victor H. Galloway as Gail's Father
- Thomas F. Duffy as Ranger#2
Many of the film's whitewater scenes were filmed on the Kootenai River in Montana. Additional ones were filmed on the Ruby Horsethief section of the Colorado River, the Rogue River, in Southern Oregon and the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. Meryl Streep did most of her own stunts in the film. She had a scare at the end of one day of filming when Hanson asked her to shoot one more scene, which she protested against because of her exhaustion. However, she decided to attempt it and with a lack of strength from fatigue was swept off the raft into the river and was in danger of drowning before she was rescued. Afterwards she said to Hanson "In the future, when I say I can't do something, I think you should believe me," to which he agreed.
The film premiered on September 30, 1994 in the United States but release was delayed in the United Kingdom until February 24, 1995. The film grossed a total of $94,216,343 worldwide, earning $46,816,343 domestically in the United States and $47,400,000 abroad.
The River Wild generally received a mixed reaction by critics although the scenery and cinematography of the film was widely praised. The film currently holds a 54% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Film critic James Berardinelli praised the production of the film in its cinematography and score and the pace of the rafting experience to the audience. He praised Curtis Hanson's directing in that like The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Hanson, "could manipulate characters and situations within the comfortable confines of a formula plot", describing it as a "level of excitement designed to submerge implausibilities and minor gaffes, and a film which "braves the rapids while keeping the viewer afloat amidst its churning waters". He also praised Streep's powerful performance as a female action hero but described the film overall as "a cut below a white-knuckler".
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times also highlighted the best elements of the film as the cinematography, which he described as "great looking" and the performances by Bacon and Streep, who he described as "putting a lot of humor and intelligence into her character". However, Ebert identified serious flaws in the strength of the plot, remarking that, "movies like this are so predictable in their overall stories that they win or lose with their details...The River Wild was constructed from so many ideas, characters and situations recycled from other movies that all the way down the river I kept thinking: Been there". He emphasised the lack of credibility in the storyline and sheer impossibility of some scenes, particularly involving David Strathairn as he outruns the pace of the river and his scenes with the cliff and his Swiss Army knife.
Streep received Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) nomination for best actress for her portrayal of a former river guide turned wife and mother. Bacon received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Featured Film. Neither of them won the Golden Globe, with the awards going to Jessica Lange in Blue Sky and Martin Landau in Ed Wood respectively.
American Film Institute recognition: