There was a time when Steven Seagal was B-A-A-D in a campy sort of way. Now he’s just bad, and whoever convinced him to make “Submerged” should be severely chastised and held up to public ridicule. Like the film.
“Submerged” is so awful it’s hard to know where to begin. You get the feeling that someone got the bright idea, Hey, let’s set it in Uruguay, because not a whole lot of action-film lovers know a whole lot about that tiny South American country, and so they’ll be more apt to believe this far-fetched plot involving mind control and a modern version of a Nazi mad doctor gleefully performing “research” operations. Oh, and submarines are cool! Let’s get them on a submarine!That’s about all you can glean from this muddled mess, which substitutes pointless action at every turn for anything resembling an well-reasoned plot. There’s plenty of shooting and stabbing, but it’s all so strobe-like that even the action can get pretty darned annoying—especially since we’re not really sure what’s going on.
Like Sean Connery’s character in “The Rock,” Chris Cody (Seagal) is sprung from the brig on the USS Clinton (okay all you people reading politics into “Star Wars 3,” here’s another chance to speculate) and promised a pardon if he’ll go to Uruguay, where an American ambassador has been assassinated—by a U.S. insider. It’s up to Commander Cody and his dirty baker’s half-dozen to get to the bottom of things. There’s Henry, a sniper (Vinnie Jones), Chief and Rollins, the small arms experts (P.H. Moriarty and Ulian Vergov), Luis, the navigator (Stephen Da Costa), O’Hearn, the dynamic entry expert (Adam Fogarty), Ender, the explosives guy (Raicho Vaslev), a medic, and a woman whose sent along by the government (Christine Adams). But none of the actors is given the chance to set themselves apart from the others, and so they’re all really not much more than the equivalent of those plastic soldiers kids used to line up and knock down.
Even if you’ve been paying close attention, rather than squirming in your seat, using the bathroom, or fixing another snack, you still won’t figure out exactly how the action shifted so quickly from a military-industrial complex to a submarine that terrorists have commandeered. All you can tell is that Cody and his bunch are shooting and stabbing everybody else on the screen.
Now, if the special effects or stunt work was spectacular, then “Submerged” might merit a star or two. But the sad fact is that nothing is believable—not even the way the fake blood is applied. And the submarine? The top of it looks like a patchwork quilt.
B-movie director Anthony Hickox (“Jill the Ripper”) relies heavily on techniques that resemble skip-printing and stop-action photography during the action scenes, which, you can only guess, is intended to compensate for the lack of real special effects and believable fight sequences. Through it all, Seagal, the man of a single face, looks and acts as if he’s on a subway commute. Even when the sub is blown up, his only reaction is, “Oh, man.”
Other stellar lines? “That’s why I get the big bucks,” “I love working with a professional,” and “I got a shitty feeling about this one, man.” But my absolute favorite is when the terminally Caucasian Cody tells someone, “You got 10 minutes to get your white ass out of here.” O-kay.
“Submerged” offers nothing but cardboard characters, hokey dialogue, a patchwork plot, and contrived action sequences. It wouldn’t be any less believable if Yoda and Condoleezza Rice had been teamed up to fight the evil doctor and his terrorist friends.
Video: Though this 2005 film is mastered in High Definition and presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1 aspect ratio), there’s actually more graininess and washed-out color than I would have expected. Admittedly it could be deliberate, but if so, it does nothing to enhance the film.
Audio: The sound is pretty decent. Though there’s nothing on the box or press materials to indicate as much, and though there’s not much rear speaker action, the soundtrack appears to be Dolby Digital 5.1.
Extras: There are none—just an insert advertising other titles and some previews. Are you kidding? Who would want to talk about this film after making it?
Bottom Line: If Steven Seagal started out as a wooden actor, in the twilight of his action career, with him looking haggard and tired, he’s become absolutely petrified—a low-energy caricature of his earlier balsa performances. It was hard not to like him in “Hard to Kill” or “Under Siege,” because there was plenty of character motivation and Seagal seemed to be full of energy. “Submerged” was first conceived as a stranded sub picture involving weird life forms, but even with the mutant plotline jettisoned, this one still sinks.