Meryl Streep's much-ballyhooed foray into the action-adventure genre fails to satisfy either as a Streep vehicle or as a thrilling melodrama. Streep works overtime on a script worth neither her trouble nor ours.
Streep plays career woman Gail, an accomplished white-water rafter who takes her husband (David Strathairn) and son (Joseph Mazzello) on what is supposed to be a relaxing rafting trip. Two other travelers, Wade (Kevin Bacon) and Terry (John C. Reilly), follow closely behind, then join the
family when their guide disappears. Tom becomes suspicious of the two men, especially Wade, who shows too much interest in Gail (the marriage has been going through a rocky period). As Wade and Terry's behavior becomes increasingly sinister, the family tries to leave them behind, but they're taken
hostage, and Gail is forced to guide the group down a particularly treacherous stretch of the river.
THE RIVER WILD was marketed by Universal as Meryl Streep's first action-adventure film and a "comeback" of sorts from the cycle of comic misadventures (e.g., POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE, DEFENDING YOUR LIFE, DEATH BECOMES HER) that followed the heavy melodramas with which she made her name.
Although the idea of casting Streep in an action-hero role is intriguing, THE RIVER WILD fails, largely because it sets up expectations that it never meets. The expected focus on Gail's character continually shifts to her husband, whose attempts to reclaim his manhood (and the respect of his son)
by outwitting the thieves dominates the film and reduces the emotional impact of Streep's actions and accomplishments. In fact, Streep's two major moments of glory are undercut: she knocks the bad guys out of the raft with her oars but, within seconds, one of them is pointing a gun at her; later,
when she has the gun pointed at Wade, Gail agonizes at length about shooting him, despite her earlier threats of retribution. Viewers hoping to see Streep take charge, Stanwyck-style, or perhaps even administer a well-deserved butt-kicking, will be sadly disappointed.
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Meryl Streep's much-ballyhooed foray into the action-adventure genre fails to satisfy either as a Streep vehicle or as a thrilling melodrama. Streep works overtime on a script worth neither her trouble nor ours. Streep plays career woman Gail, an accom… (more)