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Directed by Breck Eisner.
Written by Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, John C. Richards and James V. Hart.  Based on the novel by Clive Cussler.
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn and Penelope Cruz.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  5/15/05


I don't think that it really deserves it, but "Sahara" is a decent movie.  Based on an adventure novel by author Clive Cussler, it's a throwback to adventure serials that were best realized by "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and in a market that spends most of its time remaking horror films or rehashing the latest swords-and-sorcery epics, "Sahara" is actually kind of refreshing...

...even IF it is totally ridiculous.  Navy SEALs-turned-adventurers Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) and his partner Al (Steve Zahn, making a killing on these parts) stumble upon a plot in Africa that involves an evil dictator named Kazim (Lennie James, from "Snatch"), polluted waters, a doctor (Penelope Cruz) from the World Health Organization and a fabled ironclad ship of gold from the Civil War.  Dirk, Al and the doctor cross the continent in search of answers to many questions, and in the process spend an inordinate amount of time getting shot at, being captured, cracking jokes or blowing things up.

In other words, "Sahara" features exactly one great asset--it doesn't give a damn what you think, careening down a path of reckless entertainment and director Breck Eisner is wise to keep things as simple as possible.  You see every bad guy's death coming, the action scenes are harmless yet entertaining, McConaughey and Zahn have a good interplay between them and Cruz--while not as hot in this film as I have become accustomed to--does the best she can with the script that was handed to her.  "Sahara" continuously reminded me of "National Treasure", another film that featured people going through the motions but the film somehow ended up being pretty good.  In "Sahara", the film seems to run longer than necessary, but I didn't mind as much because Zahn kept making a funny face here and there and the film kept me into it.

No...dear God, no, "Sahara" is not great.  You get kind of tired of watching bad guys take out every single piece of a vehicle that Dirk & Co. is traveling in with machine gun fire without anyone getting hit.  You get tired of wondering why these former SEALs seem so un...military, be it with bad aim, poor fighting skills, or the strange ability to cut open metallic canisters with a bowie knife.  At times, the fact that Cruz is even in this film feels off, as if she was added for the sake of having a girl parade around in it; I wonder if this character was a guy in the original text.  Even cameos by name artists like Delroy Lindo are useless; also, does William H. Macy pick projects with less business sense than any actor in history?

But, "Sahara" is a movie in which you can turn your brain to auto-pilot and let it ride.  It's forgotten by the next day, but it's a fun time at the movies while you are sitting there.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09