Reviewed by: Ken James
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