Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Deep Rising

   Only a hardened cynic could walk away from Deep Rising and say they weren't entertained. Sure, it's movie assembled from the spare parts of a dozen other better movies, but that doesn't mean it's not fun. If you're going to point a finger, and shout "Rip off!", you're kind of missing the point. I've no doubt Deep Rising was a movie that was spawned from a very specific conversation. "What if... we made a movie about mercenaries who try to hijack a cruise liner and steal everything they can get their hands on... but! There's monstrous deep sea creatures on board who eat everyone!" and the other guy says "Duuude! That sounds awesome!" Well? It does. It truly is Aliens + Die Hard + Titanic... and, that is perfectly fine.

   The movie was written and directed by Stephen Sommers and... it shows. For better and for worse. if I had to go full critic, I'd say yeah- the movie is a mess of cliche's and offers very little we haven't seen before. At the same time, Sommers infuses the movie with the same infectious energy and fun that made The Mummy such a big hit a few years later. Like Paul W.S. Anderson, Stephen Sommers seems like a wide-eyed kid in a candy shop when making movies. Every explosion has to explode three times bigger than it has any right to, and if a slimy sea monster is going to have teeth... it's going to have all the damn teeth he can fit in there. Then he'll give it a second mouth, just because it still needs more teeth.

   That's his approach to making movies. Cliches, logic, and character development be damned- that decomposing body? He needs to look like a living cross-section! Muscles, tendons, brain matter! Show it all! Slime! More slime! Blood! Gore! More! So... as you can see, mileage may vary for more discerning audiences, but it's hard not to appreciate the glorious excess of Deep Rising. It's so deliciously over-the-top, and it's completely self aware about it too. The mercenaries who aim to hijack the cruise liner? Their guns have a '1000 round capacity' and like at least 6 rotating barrels on them. Yeah. Like I said, glorious excess. This is present in every facet of the movie's production. I love it. It's silly and overblown, from the dialog to the bombastic music score. (Composed by the late and great, reliable genre master, Jerry Goldsmith himself.)

   But, that's exactly what makes it so damn fun. It's as pulpy as a 10 cent sci-fi paperback novel, and as colorful as a comic book. It's a B-grade ripoff in vein of Roger Corman's movies like Galaxy of Terror and Forbidden World, but with an A-grade budget. Massive, slimy, tentacle creatures slither down corridors with horrifying speed, chasing protagonists who in reality should be dead five times over by now. People are eaten, remains are excreted, blood and bile are everywhere! It's terrifyingly gross and disgusting and I love it. The energetic action scenes and the slimy creatures are the stuff that makes the movie exceptionally watchable. The fantastic gore effects are the icing on the cake.

   Of course this would all hardly be worth it without a trio of entertaining leads, which we have in Treat Williams, Kevin J. O'Connor (the Walton Goggins of the 90's) and Famke Janssen. Williams plays Finnegan, the captain of a small cargo vessel for hire, who's motto is "If the cash is there- we do not care." He quickly comes to regret this motto once he finds himself and his crew escorting a team of mercenaries and their mysterious cargo to the middle of nowhere. O'Connor plays Joey Pantucci, the mechanic on Finnegan's ship- and his close friend. For all intents and purposes his character should be annoying as hell... but he's not. 90% of all the genuine laughs in the movie are because of this guy. He's a lot of fun to watch, and his character has really grown on me over the years.

  Janssen plays a pickpocket mingling with the rich passengers on the cruise liner, and survives the initial creature assault by getting her ass locked away in a makeshift brig before the shit hits the fan. Her character is fun, but like every other character- also paper thin. Not that it matters. Just pointing stuff out. All this B-movie talent is put to good use, but as the name Rob Bottin came up in the opening credits, I must admit, I'm always a little remiss that the creature effects in the movie are 95% CGI. Including the endearingly anti-climactic reveal of the big bad mother monster at the end. This is a tried and true cinematic moment that is almost impossible to botch up (See: Predator, Aliens, Starship Troopers) ...unless your monster is a fleshy blob of computer generated nonsense.

   Rob Bottin is a god amongst men when it comes to icky creature effects in movies, and if done with practical effects, Deep Rising could've been an amazing showcase of his talent. It's still a wonderful ick-fest as is, but it's fueled by adequately rendered CGI instead of a more timeless alternative. Anyways,  I can't begrudge the movie it's little faults though, because it manages to be so much gleeful fun despite it all. You could do worse on a rainy Tuesday afternoon than to crank up the volume on your TV, put a little extra butter on your popcorn, and let yourself be entertained by Deep Rising. It's directed with jolting efficiency and Sommers, along with the cast, is clearly just having buckets of fun with the material. Who wouldn't?

   The characters get to scream, yell, and romp around a flooded cruise liner, shooting massive guns at big toothy sea-monsters. Which is a blast to watch. Deep Rising is special in how excessive and gratuitous it is- with cracking action scenes, big explosions, smarmy wit, and plenty of B-movie goodness all around, it's so easy to be entertained by it. Whatever sameness it shares with other average creature flicks of the mid 90's is overshadowed by how much fun it still is. Some of the gory imagery is still properly shocking and effective. Which is more than I can say for any of the other movies you might find in a Wal-Mart bargain bin. When all is said and done, Deep Rising is a rollicking good time, couched in B-movie tropes that is exceptionally watchable.

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