Deep Rising (1998) — What Speed 2 wishes it would’ve been

“Now what?”

Justin’s rating: 7 days/6 nights of slimy terror

Justin’s review: Despite having one of those weird names that you can only find in Hollywood, Treat Williams is always a welcome sight in any B-movie. He’s like the poor man’s Scott Bakula: Amiable, charming, and naturally trustworthy. He’s not been in a whole lot of the types of movies that I’ve seen, but for two memorable hours in 1998, Williams, Famke Janssen (X-Men), and director Stephen Sommers teamed up to give us the guilty pleasure known as Deep Rising.

Defying any single genre label, Deep Rising is kind of like the plate your hungry and undiscerning friend brings back from the buffet: full of a lot of everything, even if the flavors don’t always go well together. It’s most certainly a creature feature at its core, but it’s also an action thriller, a disaster flick, a crime caper, and maybe a bit of a scifi romp as well. Honestly, I don’t care about the precise label, as long as I’m entertained. And Deep Rising is deliberately pulpy B-movie entertainment that’s a little more satisfying than you’d suspect. Well, you may suspect it, seeing as how Sommers’ Mummy movies had a lot of the same ingredients as well.

At the onset, we have two ships in the South China Sea destined for a meeting. One is a luxury cruise liner on its maiden voyage, and the other is a smaller intercept craft piloted by Finnigan (Williams) and carrying a payload of untrustworthy mercenaries and some Russian torpedoes. The plan is for the mercs to board the ship, steal the passengers’ valuables, and then sink the ship as part of an insurance scam. Of course, nobody on either boat anticipated that a giant people-devouring sea creature would RISE from the DEEP, board the cruise ship’s innards, and kill off everyone by slurping the skin off their skeletons.

So when the mercs show up, they’ve gotten a little more than their unethical practices expected. It’s tentacle season, and they’re the tasty desserts. Also on board the ship is a jewel thief (Janssen), who somehow survived an event that killed 99.9% of everyone else. Janssen is immensely likable as an action hero in her own right, and I can imagine that she immediately became the crush of many a teenager back in 1998 when this came out.

Deep Rising is weirdly paced, taking a full half-hour to get to the actual boarding, but it does give us time to appreciate Treat Williams’ genial heroism and start to loathe the engineer/comic relief Joey (Kevin J. O’Connor). The ’90s was a particularly bad time for comic reliefs infesting otherwise fine movies, and Joey is among the worst that I’ve ever seen. His constant whiny remarks and horrid beret makes you wish that he’d be one of the first killed off, but nothing doing. Comic reliefs have a better-than-average chance of making it all the way to the end credits to keep the quips coming, and Joey’s not going to leave even if you literally shoot him in the leg and blow up the ship on which he’s sitting.

Because of the mish-mash of genre types, Deep Rising does suffer from an inconsistent tone. In particular, the few horror beats we get seem jarring, especially one of a half-digested man screaming for a while, because very little else in the movie is this overtly gross. The sea creature — a fast-moving octopus-thing — is obviously from the early days of CGI, but it’s decent enough that you can squint and sort of buy it as a threat. I did like it more when the movie suggested rather than showed its presence, but sooner or later, a creature feature must unveil its star attraction.

I suspect that Deep Rising is one of those movies that people may have secretly liked an awful lot back in the late ’90s but have mostly forgotten about today. Therefore, it is my mission to remind you that such a masterpiece of cinematic snack food was made and might be a good pick the next time you want a little of everything — but nothing in particular.

Didja notice?

  • Ship captains prefer electronic blackjack to helping their crew
  • “If the cash is there, we do not care.” That sounds ethical.
  • That was the richiest rich guy speech ever
  • It’s movie law that if a group of mercs are introduced, they all need to get their one defining character trait out in the open ASAP
  • Giant torpedoes, that seems legit
  • I love that she pigs out in the galley after being caught
  • Nothing good ever happens in the bathroom
  • Lifeboats are very explosive
  • These hijackers love their grappling guns, let me tell you
  • Hijackers get jumpy around indoor fireworks
  • Honestly did not see that pickaxe attack coming
  • Ahaha she drops the shoe when everyone’s disarming
  • That’s a lot of gooey people remains right there
  • Melty guy will haunt your dreams
  • The hijacker’s guns are ridiculous with their rotating barrels and neverending ammunition
  • Skeletons can scream, sort of
  • I think I speak for everyone when I say, “Thank you for shooting the comic relief guy”
  • You can walk on a leg bullet wound
  • Shouldn’t have wasted that bullet!
  • Flare guns are deadly weapons?
  • Those assault rifles aren’t very accurate, are they?
  • Riding a wave runner through a cruise ship looks amazingly fun
  • Shotgun blasts can be used to push elevator buttons

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