review for The Island on AllMovie

The Island (1980)
by Donald Guarisco review

It's easy to see why this eccentric hybrid of horror and adventure fare confounded audiences when it was released. The Island is a very bizarre proposition, a sort of riff on the 'Bermuda Triangle' mystery that is done on a big-budget Hollywood scale but also includes an occasional lashing of the nastiness one associates with grindhouse fare. Peter Benchley's script is both dark and witty, offsetting some gruesome acts of violence and a morbid take on how pirates really operate with oddball bits of humor (like one of the pirates' victims attempting to fight back by using the martial arts on them!) and plenty of sarcastic dialogue. Director Michael Ritchie plays up the odd, dark humor of the piece, adding touches like underscoring the scenes where the pirates attack unsuspecting innocents with rousing orchestral fanfares. The cast, led by strong performances from Michael Caine and David Warner, keep their heads down and play the material straight. It's tough to say exactly what audience the often-surreal end result was intended for but The Island is strangely watchable for those can keep up with its oddball whims: Henri Decae's photography is lovely, the production values are lavish, the cast all fit their roles nicely and Ritchie brings the same flair for action he showed in Prime Cut to the setpieces here. In short, The Island is not for everybody but fans of big-budget oddities are likely to be fascinated by the well-funded eccentricity at play here.