Remember the first time you saw fat Elvis? How saddened you were to see someone truly great reduced to a chubby mess, their remaining talents overshadowed by their unwieldy physical condition? That’s how I feel when watching any Steven Seagal movie made in the last four years, where his subtle style of ass-kicking baddies in films like “Under Siege” is a far cry from what he is doing now. At the moment, Seagal doesn’t look like he can walk properly, let alone dish out the pain like he used to. Yet, like fat Elvis, Seagal shows no signs of relenting, as this year alone the ponytailed one has churned out five movies, all into the direct-to-video market. Needless to say, the former master’s latest straight-to-video flick “Submerged” is not the best of the bunch.
Steven Seagal stars as Chris Cody, the world’s best (and most out of shape) mercenary, who, along with his gang of ex-army vigilantes, is let out of prison to fight a group of terrorists. These terrorists use mind-control devices to “program” random people into doing their dirty work, and have brainwashed a group of hostages that Cody’s team are sent to rescue. The result: the mercenaries are stuck in a submarine (hence the title), trying to escape from said terrorists with a bunch of brainwashed “zombies” that want to kill them. Just another day at the office for an out of shape mercenary!
Despite its overall lack of quality, there are some good things that can be said about “Submerged”. For one, it has Steven Seagal and a “zombiefied” Gary Daniels (“Fist of the North Star”) duking it out. If they put that on the DVD case, action junkies from around the globe would surely buy this movie, regardless of how short the fight actually is (it runs just over a minute). The supporting cast are also surprisingly good, including ex-soccer player Vinnie Jones (“Mean Machine”), “Lost” star Christine Adams, British actress/glamour model Alison King, and the aforementioned Gary Daniels, whose acting is abysmal but nevertheless is always watchable.
Although the supporting cast does save the movie somewhat from the poor direction of Anthony Hickox (“Full Eclipse”) and the current flabbiness of Seagal, “Submerged” is still ruined by its astonishing lack of originality. The story kicks off with a series of random, surreal images flashing onscreen, illustrating that if you can imprint pictures straight into the brain, then you can control someone’s mind. Forget for one moment that the whole “mind control could really happen” angle has been played in literally thousands of movies already, and you’ll still end up with the undeniable fact that each one of the weird images is stolen directly from “The Ring”. What makes the theft doubly annoying is that the filmmakers try to cover it up. For instance, one black and white scene has a woman standing on the edge of a cliff ready to throw herself off, but instead of a well in the background, it’s a windmill. Real subtle, guys. Nice.
I might be able to overlook a “Ring” rip-off (seeing as how “The Ring” is probably the most borrowed-from movie since “The Matrix” and its bullet-time effect), if it weren’t for the fact that virtually every other aspect of “Submerged” is also stolen from other movies. Alison King’s Damita character is Lara Croft without the interest in archaeology (even though, admittedly, King certainly does a pretty good Angelina Jolie impression), Vinnie Jones is playing himself minus the soccer, Christine Adams’ “smart, sexy seductive black female” character has been done to death (remember Halle Berry in “Swordfish” or Gabriella Union in “Cradle 2 the Grave”?).
“Submerge’s” cinematography also proves that some people haven’t gotten over “The Matrix’s” look just yet. Even the settings are unoriginal. There’s a dam reminiscent of the one in “Goldeneye”, the claustrophobic sub itself is somewhere between “Das Boot” and “Aliens”, and the final scenes take place in a sunny Latin country straight out of Robert Rodriguez’s “Once Upon a Time in Mexico”. Nothing in “Submerged” feels new, which makes you wonder why you didn’t choose to watch the films that provide fodder for this mediocre rip-off instead.
The film’s star Steven Seagal should seriously consider retiring, and leave his reputation somewhat intact, rather than continue to sully it with a slew of bad to mediocre to below average B-movies. “Submerged” is a forgettable time-waster that should only be remembered as 90 minutes worth of explosions, explosions, and more explosions.
Anthony Hickox (director) / Anthony Hickox, Paul de Souza (screenplay)
CAST: Steven Seagal …. Chris Cody
Christine Adams …. Dr. Chappell
William Hope …. Fletcher
Nick Brimble …. Arian Lehder
Vinnie Jones …. Henry
Alison King …. Damita