104 Min | Action – Drama – Sci-Fi | October 1997
IMDB Rating: 5.4
Director: Mick Jackson
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Heche, Gaby Hoffmann
Volcano Review: “Volcano” is admittedly well-cast and acted, despite a dreadful script and a plot whose summary could fit on a matchbook. Tommy Lee Jones, who would give 110% making a McDonald’s commercial, stars as Mike Roark, the hard-boiled head of the Office of Emergency Management, where he is assisted by his sidekick Emmit (Don Cheadle). After initially pooh-poohing the thought of a volcano in L.A. from geologist Amy Barnes (Anne Heche, who constantly ends her lines with a four-letter word like a period after a sentence), it’s only a matter of time before he is proved wrong before his very eyes. Other solid performances come from Jacqueline Kim (Dr. Calder), John Carroll Lynch (Stan, the oft-maligned subway boss), and Keith David, a great actor who is otherwise wasted here in a role as a police lieutenant who has no impact on any events in the film, which is halfway over before he even appears on screen for the first time.
And, lest we forget that “Volcano” takes place in L.A., there’s the obligatory racist-cop episode in which a black man asking the fire chief to help his neighborhood is suddenly handcuffed out of nowhere by an officer for “harassing” him, a tacky scene complete with (groan) references to Rodney King and Mark Fuhrman. (The whole time he’s cuffed, the black man makes carefree wisecracks to the officers all while his ‘hood is burning to cinders.) But, of course, everything’s eventually resolved. “You’re a good man,” the other cop praises his partner after the latter grudgingly dispatches fire trucks to the black man’s neighborhood, as if he has performed some immense display of generosity. In another lovely homage to L.A., there’s also a looting scene, where extras run incredibly slow while carrying empty boxes.
When an army of helicopters drops gallons of water on the lava blocked off on Wilshire, the reporters and camera crews, who are camped right up against the concrete barriers, manage to stay conveniently dry the entire time. Despite a high body count, scores of injured civilians and billions of dollars in damages, everybody’s smiling as soon as a rainfall ensues, like those 7up commercials circa 1986. Lots of questions are left unanswered, how will they clean up and repair everything? Will a future eruption occur soon? Will the Cubs win the World Series? “Volcano” was entertaining. It’s a load of escapist camp that doesn’t have a care in the world.