Deep Rising (1998)

Hooooo boy, Stephen Sommers is a dude who knew how to make a late 90’s movie. That statement alone should be enough to give you a taste of what you’re in for with Deep Rising. If not, let’s put it this way - mercenaries encounter a cruise ship that is under siege by a gigantic sea monster and shoot it A LOT with automatic weaponry. Explosions happen at an unhealthy rate? Sound cool? Of course it does. Let’s talk about this b-movie action horror stew in spoilery fashion, shall we?

Reviewed by: Jake

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Plot Synopsis

We start with a tale of two ships. One is a swank-ass cruise ship floating around on the South China Sea. The other is a mercenary vessel with a ton of torpedoes on-board and two teams of scalliwags working together ins a don’t ask-don’t tell sort of situation, heading towards some unnamed location in the same part of the Pacific. Give you one guess where that location is…

To say the plot becomes convoluted would perhaps be the understatement of the existence of this review blog, so let’s say it gets messy and I’m gonna take some liberties. The cruise ship is attacked by some mysterious, gargantuan thing from the depths and people start dying in a hurry. It shakes loose a speedboat that was on board which lies in the path of the mercenary ship captained by John Finnegan (Treat Williams). This action incites a takeover by the mercenary crew they are escorting, who reveal that they plan to rob the cruise ship and sink it with torpedoes they have on board. When they arrive at the ocean liner, they quickly discover something is amiss. There’s a lot of blood on board, but it’s a ghost ship. The mercenaries find the vault but open it to be attacked by Captain Atherton ( Derrick O’Connor) and rich ship owner/investor Canton (Anthony Heald), who were hiding from the beast. It’s revealed that Canton had arranged for the ship to be attacked by the mercenaries, as it was a money pit and he was planning to make off with the hefty insurance check. It’s around this time the group also finds Trillian St. James (Famke Janssen), who was put in the brig when the crew discovered her on board because she is a mysterious thief with a track record.

 
Pictured - the most badass jet ski escape in film history.

Pictured - the most badass jet ski escape in film history.

 

From here the mercenaries and crew/passengers pretty much just move through the ship in a game of survival as their numbers dwindle. With minimal options, Finnegan is able to disembark and set his boat on autopilot to collide with the cruise ship, which will detonate the torpedoes and sink it. He and St. James heroically escape on a jet ski and ride it to a deserted island. Oh yeah, and throughout this entire process, Finnegan’s mechanic Joey Pantucci (Kevin J. O’Connor) has been popping in and out, providing comedic relief. He shows up on the island too. Just before cutting to black, they hear a loud noise and discover the uncharted island is primordial. They re likely fucked. Finnegan utters his catch phrase “Now what?” for the umpteenth time. The end.


What the Movie Does Right

In what should come as no surprise, this movie’s bread & butter is in it’s b-ness. The swashbuckling mercenaries meets destructive sea creature plot line leads to some hilarious and over the top set pieces, provide an avenue for some gruesome nonsense.

 
Uh sir, your finger are very large. You might want to have a doctor take a look at that…

Uh sir, your finger are very large. You might want to have a doctor take a look at that…

 

None of these moments shine more than the completely over-the-top escape sequence at the end of the film. Finnegan and St. James riding a jet ski through the corridors of the ship that are perfectly flooded for their use while they work together to use a shotgun, ultimately jumping out the side of the vessel right when it is blown to bits is just perfect. If you don’t like it you have not heart, soul or mind and I will not hear otherwise. It’s objectively one of the best sequences ever put to film. To further support this truth, some intelligent individual has cut this sequence for your re-visiting pleasure. Here you go:

 
 

My final submission for this category is Kevin J. O’Conner. This dude steals the show. He may have been born to play Benni, but this is a close second and an absolute tour-de-force of acting and character that could only have existed right around the time this was made. Is it good? No. But is it perfect? YES. It makes sense. Don’t worry about it.


What the Movie Does Wrong

It should beat least somewhat clear from my section on what the movie does right that this is not an Academy Award winning film. I mean, this thing is not really even a straight-face worthy movie. The charm is in the symphony of imperfections and absurdity. That will land for some folks and it will really, really not for others. We don’t really lean heavily on Roger Ebert’s opinions at this here operation, but it is kind of funny that the mean old bastard put it on his most hated list.

Bemusing, how much money and effort go into the making of such a movie, and how little thought. It’s months of hard work—for what?
— Roger Ebert

The money he is referring to is the $45 million price tag that yielded a box office return of under $12 million. Ouch…

In terms of legitimate gripes, the jumbled mess of a plot is probably the easiest thing to point out about where the movie falls short. It’s not that the movie is too difficult to follow from a high level standpoint, it’s that the way it gets from point A to point B is cumbersome and disengaging. There are also exactly zero heroes in this movie, which makes it a bit hard to care about anything that is happening. O’connor’s Joey is the most likable of the bunch, but he’s still a mechanic for hire in a crew that gladly does some nefarious shit as long as the money is there. Even Famke Janssen’s character has a criminal background, and it’s almost for no reason at all. At best, I’m down the middle on the characters, so sure, let ‘em get eaten.

 
This looks bayud.

This looks bayud.

 

Also, and probably most importantly, the monster looks like a giant, steaming pile of CG garbage. There are a few instances where it is acceptable but on the whole, the creature in this one gets to the mark of schlock that you’d look for in a b-movie and then cruises by it to deliver something that is wholly laughable looking. And the movie poster chose to tout the effects team above all else! Nice.


Ratings (1-10)

**note - I’m going to also include Mark’s rating here because WOOF.

Story: 3 - This story manages to make itself cumbersome,which is actually kind of a feat. There are too many meanderings between the groups and subgroups of indistinguishable strawmen characters that it gets tiring quickly. I understand showing the human struggles in the face of danger - that’s a monster movie staple, but here, the premise is one where the characters aren’t even that unique. I do like the deep sea monster attacks a cruise ship concept though. (Mark’s Score - 6)

World-Building / Immersion: 4 - There is enough b-movie fun here to keep you from getting to far afield of what the movie is doing, attention wise. The world is a good one on the whole, a stranded cruise ship at the mercy of a behemoth is some great background material. It loses you because of the shortcomings in the story and in the effects. (Mark’s Score - 8)

Scare-Factor: 3 - I am scared of open water and big things in said open water. The fact this movie manages to be as lacking in the fright department as it is is mostly testament to it’s overall approach as an action horror flick, but there really isn’t as much to do with the water as you’d expect, here. It’s all inside the ship. (Mark’s Score - 2.5)

Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 4 - Holy smokes the CG is preposterously awful. There are some cool sets and props in this though and when practical is used (like the body piles in the lower depths of the ship) it’s generally pretty good looking. There just isn’t enough of it. (Mark’s Score - 4)

Overall: 4.5 - This is not a good film. It does hit on a lot of the qualities that you’d look for in a b-movie, though. I’d only recommend this one in a group setting with quite a bit of beer on your person. (Mark’s Score - 7.5… Jesus.)