Stephen Sommers temporarily became a major player in hollywood after he attacked the multiplexes with his particular brand of hyperactive blockbuster – ie. the mentality of a coked up teenager – with the first two Mummy movies, G.I. Joe and… er, Van Helsing. But before the director shamelessly plundered Steven Spielberg’s playbook there was Deep Rising; a ridiculously unapologetic and suprisingly entertaining throwback B-movie involving the damage done to a luxury liner by a gigantic prehistoric cephalopod with the appetite of Guy Fieri.
Part The Posidon Adventure and part Aliens with hint of Die Hard thrown in for good measure (because who doesn’t like a bit of Die Hard, eh?) Deep Rising is a massive sugary dollop of monster movie daftness that may be a dopey as a particular member of the seven dwarves, but also proves to be tremendous fun.
Treat Williams, a man who’s career didn’t really go where it should’ve, is John Finnegan, a Han Solo-esque captain of a boat whose business motto of “If the cash is there, we do not care” lands him and his crew in decidedly hot water when he is hired by a gang of mercenaries to take them out into the South China Sea for mysterious purposes.
It turns out that they are there to hijack the Argonautica, a cruise liner who’s unnecessarily clunky name gives you a hint to how state of the art it is (clue: very) but upon getting on board the mercs and Finnegan’s crew are unnerved to find it as busy as the Marie Celeste during dinner time. Finding a couple of scattered survivors including the ships owner and the magnificently named Trillian St. James, a comely jewel thief on a working holiday (hey, a girl’s gotta eat, right?), the plot thickens when it’s revealed that the population of the Argonautica have been scoffed by what appears to be large, spikey, eel-like creatures that have have disconcerting habit of swallowing people whole and drinking them alive like a Frappuccino with a circulatory system. As the group struggles to survive and their number steadily dwindles, two things steadily become apparent: 1) everyone on board REALLY needs to get somewhere else fast and 2) the creatures aren’t actually giant eels at all but turn out to be the tentacles of a massive, voracious monster octopus that sports a mouth that crunch a dump truck like a McDonald’s apple pie. However, distrustful mercs will be distrustful mercs, and instead of working together to escape, the survivors seem obsessed in screwing each other over in order to desperately remain being uneaten for another five minutes.
Can Finnegan and what remains of his crew possibly hope to avoid both the snacking habits an over-eating, undersea leviathan and a gaggle of panicking, machine gun toting assholes?
So, yeah, Deep Rising could hardly be described as high art, but then considering it contains a scene where a woman is dragged screaming down a toilet, who the fuck cares? This is one of those movies where literally EVERYONE is quip slinging wise cracker despite the fact that they could all meet an excruciating fate worse than death any second and reality can go take an early shower.
Helping sell this cartoonish exercise in goofy gore and outlandish heroics alongside Williams is a suprisingly recognizable cast of modern B-listers (and I mean that with a huge amount of respect) including Famke Janssen, Jason Flemyng, Wes Studi, Djimon Hounsou, Cliff Curtis and Sommers regular Kevin J. O’Connor who are fully up for getting digesting by something that could keep a sushi restaurant stocked for a full calendar year.
The squishy, multi limbed big bad is also well designed beastie by special effects deity Rob (The Thing, Robocop) Bottin which seems to share the same orthodontist with that thing from the end of Howard The Duck and has the same kind of unfolding reveal reminiscent of the Graboids from Tremors plus the gruesome results of being soaked in this thing’s stomach like an acidic jacuzzi proves to be a highly memorable and jarring moment.
Admittedly the film is never more than a throwaway B-movie but alternatively that’s blatantly what the filmmakers were trying for and it’s cheeky cliffhanger ending and shameless attempts at catchphrases (Williams repeatedly sighs “Now what?” everytime shit gets real) give the whole thing an action adventure vibe that gels well with the low rent adolescent thrills that comes with a film with Williams’ and Janssen’s character’s inexplicably finding the time to be attracted to one another despite riding a jet-ski out of an exploding dock while fighting off meth-gummed tentacles.
It’s true that the B in B-movie stands for bullshit; but Deep Rising proves to be anything but a floater…