Yikes. Sometimes a shitty movie crosses my path and I don’t know whether to lose myself in the fun of it all, or to hate it. Deep Rising, written and directed by Stephen Sommers, whipsawed me back and forth between deep belly laughs and outright revulsion so quickly that by the end I was praying for something, anything, to appear just for a moment, a fleeting second, and justify the mystifying amount of time I spent with this dog. Didn’t happen, so now, instead of letting the experience fade away into the deep recesses of my memory, I’m going to write about it.
From 1998, Deep Rising was Sommers’ last film before he figured out how to make a summer blockbuster with the Mummy franchise. In that, Deep Rising bears more than a passing resemblance to Sommers’ later films. It’s loud, the plot has huge holes and makes no sense (but that’s on purpose, really), and it relies far too much on garish computer effects. Unlike it’s later cousins, however, which were successful enough in keeping things cartoonish that I didn’t mind being treated like an adult-sized six-year old, Deep Rising was so irreverent at times that I was sure Sommers’ was calling me stupid. It felt that personal. That’s ridiculous, of course, but even the most watchable of Sommers’ films lack respect for the sophistication of the audience. Deep Rising managed to blend that disregard with a tired plot lifted straight from every Alien clone ever made and populate the story with characters that, for the most part, deserved every evil thing that happened to them. Most shockingly, Deep Rising seems to feel that this is what people want to see when they go to the movies.
It was all well and good when things stayed light, or those moments when I tried to convince myself that yes, I got the joke, but then I realized there wasn’t any joke. None at all.
The plot revolves around a small group of mercenaries led by Hanover (none other than Wes Studi), who have contracted with Finnegan (Treat Williams) and his crew to deliver them aboard a fast boat to a spot in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. What’s there, Finnegan doesn’t know, but the audience was given a clue before the opening credits. Meanwhile, a cruise ship is traveling those same seas on its maiden voyage, and something…goes wrong.
Finnegan’s crew spots the cruise ship after a mishap has left their little boat damaged, and they learn that the cruise ship was their real destination. Hanover’s mercenaries turn out to be up to no good. Upon boarding the becalmed ocean liner, it turns out some unknown creatures have perpetrated a massacre aboard, and only a handful of survivors have been left behind. The rest of the film is pretty standard fare as story goes. A small number of people are struggling to survive against long odds in an enclosed environment battling a monster or monsters of some sort. Characters get picked off one by one, until denouement and resolution leaves only a lucky few to greet the rising sun. The sin of Deep Rising isn’t that it mined an idea that hasn’t been fresh in a very long time. Rather, it’s the way it was done.
Hanover and his company are as shallow as freshly emptied bedpans. They seem to enjoy nothing more than shooting big guns that never have to be reloaded, beating up on defenseless weaklings, speaking in meathead colloquialisms, and treating the first woman they come across like an Asian hooker. But wait, that’s not their fault. It’s Sommers’. He wrote it, he directed it, he’s responsible for every sick groan that issued from deep inside me whenever one of those awful people opened their ugly, stinking gullets and tried to form complete sentences. Now I no longer have to wonder. I know. I hate this movie, because it hated me. Alien: Resurrection has more redeeming qualities than Deep Rising.
Nuts & Bolts: Deep Rising was written and directed by Stephen Sommers and stars Treat Williams (Finnegan), Kevin J. O’Connor (Pantucci), Famke Janssen (Trillian), Wes Studi (Hanover), Anthony Heald (Canton), Jason Flemyng (Mulligan), Cliff Curtis (Mamooli), Djimon Hounsou (Vivo), and Clifton Powell (Mason), among others, who are lucky enough not to be listed here. Go to IMDb, mourn the unfortunate direction all of their careers took in the year 1998.