Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Submerged (2005)

This is how Seagal rolls

From the DVD cover I imagined this film would be something along the lines of Hunt for Red October, only with a fatter hero and more broken limbs. Unfortunately only about fifteen minutes of the film takes place on a submarine, the rest is the same dreary Eastern European locales in most of Seagal's Direct-to-Video ouvre. You see, like Attack Force, this film was the victim of serious plot tampering. According to imdb, it was originally intended to be about Seagal fighting biological mutants on a submarine but somewhere along the line the producers chickened out and changed it to a more Seagalian tale of weasely South American terrorists and corrupt CIA agents.

The first time Seagal is introduced he is handcuffed and clad in prison blues. He is led along by two MPs while heavy rock guitars blast in the background, like he is baddest mofo ever to fo a mo. Hi-larious. Years ago, he and his crack team foiled an attempted terrorist bombing, and the freedom haters at the UN put them away for being too awesome, or something. In exchange a full pardon and $100K for each of his guys, he agrees to head out to Urugay to take down Dr. Adrian Lehder (Nick Brimble), an evil scientist who is using illegal mind control experiments to turn people into unwitting sleeper agents.

We are introduced to his crack team dossier style, a series of annotated freeze frames providing the extent of their characterisation (i.e. name, service history and specialty). It's interesting to see a few recognisable Brits among the cast, most notably Vinnie Jones as Henry. He plays the same kind of character he always does, but he does it well and he has some good fight scenes. P.H. Moriarty (aka "Hatchet" Harry Lonsdale) makes an appearance, but he doesn't beat anyone to death with a 15 inch black rubber cock... a real disappointment.

After infiltrating the base and rescuing some captured marines, they escape through some underground tunnels and onto a submarine. The captured marines turn out to be sleeper agents, and fifteen minutes later half of Seagal's team is dead and the submarine is sunk. Seagal and the remnants of his crew head back to Uruguay and plan a sting operation at the opera. Now, I'm not the greatest expert on Uruguay (I couldn't remember if it was a real country at first), but even I noticed the enormous Argentinian flag on display in the opera house, and the supposedly Spanish (actually Italian) labels on the submarine controls. If you're going to pull that kind of shit, at least make up a fictional country. Anyway, the operation goes tits up when a whole bunch of people turn out to be sleeper agents, even the conductor, and Seagal heads back to Lehder's lab for a bloody showdown.

Anthony Hickox, who directed a few decent horror sequels in the early 90s, uses seizure inducing camera work, strobe editing and all manner of high tech bleeps and blorps to try and give the impression that something exciting is happening, but it's never convincing. Seagal isn't on screen for long stretches and when he is around his voice is dubbed more than half the time. He only has one major fight scene (with some nameless henchman) but it's pretty lackluster.

Thankfully, there are some hilariously stupid moments. For instance, Henry stealthily kills a couple of soldiers by shooting a drum full of flammable materials. He claims that the heat sears their throats closed so they can't scream, but the enormous fiery explosion goes unmentioned. Seagal tries to blend in with a rioting crowd by holding a newspaper up in front of his face. He also takes out a tank by lethargically jogging up to it and dunking a grenade through the view port. Classic Seagal.

There's one scene that almost made the whole film watchable. After a corrupt CIA agent is double crossed by Lehder and tortured near to death, he manages to kill Lehder and escape, only to come face to face with Seagal. He mutters "Oh, shit" before Seagal wordlessly kicks him through a plate glass window and about thirty feet through the air. If the whole film was that ridiculous I would have been happy, but most of the action is pretty boring. This film is on the bottom of the heap of Steven Seagal Direct-to-Video films, which is possibly the most damning criticism there is.

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