Cover Graphic from The River Wild
Prayer Focus
Movie Review

The River Wild

Reviewed by: Ken James

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
1 hr. 48 min.

Starring: Meryl Streep, Joseph Mazzello, Stephanie Sawyer, David Strathairn, John C. Reilly, William Lucking, Benjamin Bratt, Kevin Bacon | Director: Curtis Hanson | Writer: Denis O'Neill

It’s always a bummer when a promising family vacation is ruined. Gail (Meryl Streep) is a likable mother of two in a failing marriage. Her only son, Roarke (Joseph Mazzello), wishes for a river rafting trip in celebration of his pre-teen birthday. Gail’s husband, Tom (David Strathairn) is a busy architect who has little time for his family. Disappointingly, Tom decides to stay home in Boston while Gail and Roarke leave for their trip. Bad move, Tom. (He makes up for it later, though). While the family tension is obvious in the beginning, some frightening things are about to happen that will help bring this family back together again, and force each one to consider what is truly important in life.

Kevin Bacon is Wade, a rough-around-the-edges country boy who is also embarking on a rafting trip with a few buddies. He flurts a bit with Gail. She enjoys the attention. She flurts back a bit. While things may seem innocent to begin with, it soon becomes obvious this ain’t no friendly vacation for him and his pals. And soon it’s up to Gail and her family to fight for their very existences, and perhaps even bring things to justice.

“The River Wild” is from the director of “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle”. That said, one might expect an intense thriller that is not for the faint of hear. It delivers. Included is stunning photography, alluring white-water action, and a realistic plot. The violence is there, too, with scenes involving guns, fist-fighting, and general roughness. Nothing gets too gory, though. The language contains about six inappropriate uses of God’s name, four uses of “s*it”, one “f”, and one “d*mn”. The only nudity is a far-off silhouette shot of Streep skinny dipping at night (nothing is shown).

If you are a fan of thrillers, this one is worth checking out. Even more if you love river rafting (my wife and I ran the Deschutes in Oregon during our honeymoon). Some of the river scenes from this film are shot in northern Oregon, but not the same river we were on. But while I enjoy some good rapids, I certainly would not look forward to an adventure like Gail’s family endures.

Year of Release—1994

Viewer Comments
I enjoyed this movie, though it is way too aggressive for younger kids. It was a definite on the edge of your seat type of film. Kevin Bacon did a great job—I had a REAL problem with him in this flick. What a creep! But the adventure kept the movie going, and I like how Dad saves the day. There is something really cool about “domestic” heroes. If we had more movie like this where Mom and Dad save the day, kids might be more respectful to their parents! My Ratings: [3/4½]
—Amber, age 19
There are not many movies that stir up the emotions for all the right reasons and that I would like to see more than once. This movie, (appropriately rated), should get 4 stars; not just for the superb acting and photography, but the good morals it relishes. There is actually a “family” with a dad, (wow!), and an extended family member helpful and loved. (super!) The story-line is believable, triumphant of good over evil, love stronger than problems. The bad guy is all bad. All of this delivered with “on the edge of your seat” thrilling anticipation. This movie leaves you feeling confident in the institution of traditional marriage and family, (and breathing huge sighs of relief)! My Ratings: [4/4]
—Michele Tibbets, age 42
I agreed with the reviewer… I think this movie is a good group movie. I first saw it at my church youth group, and everyone seemed to enjoy it a lot. My Ratings: [3/4]
—Scarlett Story, age 20
I mostly agree with the reviewer concerning the quality of this movie. It is a very well-done film with nice performances by both Meryl Streep and David Strathairn (as well as the rest of the cast). [In this movie, Gail’s mother makes a point] that a successful marriage takes work and does not always come easy and she encouraged her daughter not to take the “easy” way out. In my opinion, this movie and this conversation in particular clearly demonstrate good family values. My Ratings: [4½/4]
—Jonathan Gomes, age 24