The River Wild (1994)

6.5 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Great cast, great location

So-so story

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The River Wild

Studio:  Universal Studios

Genre(s):  Action/Adventure/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  September 30, 1994

MPAA Rating:   PG-13


Hey Kevin…John C. and I both have Oscar noms…what about you?

Gail (Meryl Streep) is the mother of two and struggling to connect with her husband Tom (David Strathairn) who seems to work all the time.  Taking her son Roarke (Joseph Mazzello) on a white water rafting trip for his birthday, Gail is joined by her husband and re-experiencing her childhood on the river she used to work on.  When Gail, Tom, and Roarke meet Wade (Kevin Bacon) and his friend Terry (John C. Reilly), they find themselves pulled into the lives of desperate criminals trying to escape…which means going doing the most dangerous part of the river.

Directed by Curtis Hanson, The River Wild is an action thriller.  The movie received moderate reviews but a rather strong box office draw.

Meryl Streep is a classy actress who always seems to land great roles and receives an Oscar nomination for almost anything she does…which made it rather shocking when she chose to do a rather mundane thriller.  In that sense, I was actually really rather interested to see the movie.


Yeah, yeah…I know you’ve been nominated for an Oscar too…

If the story was punchier, the movie could work.  The “thriller” was a big thing in the ’80s and ’90s with movies like Fatal AttractionThe Hand that Rocks the Cradle, Cape Fear, and Basic Instinct and it always seemed that people were being threatened by killers in high intensity situations.  The River Wild however lacks that intensity with the river kind of meandering through the movie.  The rapids at the end are big, but I didn’t really see why they couldn’t have just portaged the raft over the land since obviously Tom was able to follow the river.

The cast for the movie is great and way above the quality of the script.  Meryl Streep did get a Golden Globe nomination for the movie and her costar Kevin Bacon also got one as the killer who still managed to be charming.  David Strathairn plays a good “straight man” to the characters and the movie features early appearances by John C. Reilly and Benjamin Bratt.  Joseph Mazzello plays the younger star and had been really active at the time with Jurassic Park and Radio Flyer.


You all might be award nominees, but I got the gun!

The movie also benefits from a great location.  The film was shot on location on the Kootenai River, the Colorado River, and the Rogue River.  Streep did do many of her own stunts and that always helps the realism of action films.  Unfortunately, it just isn’t that great of a movie.

The River Wild is a rather average thriller that doesn’t quite thrill enough.  It is worth seeking out to see Streep play outside of her normal character roles.  The movie is rather fast and harmless but don’t go into it expecting much.  The River Wild isn’t quite as wild as the title implies, but it is still a nice little thriller that does exactly what you’d expect it to do.

[easyazon-block align=”center” asin=”B004BSWC8A” locale=”us”]

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response