Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 46 min.
Release Date: January 30th, 1998 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Stephen Sommers Actors: Treat Williams, Famke Janssen, Anthony Heald, Kevin J. O’Connor, Wes Studi, Jason Flemyng, Cliff Curtis, Djimon Hounsou
hen one is in the mood for a giant killer mollusk movie, there just aren’t many choices out there. Plagued by hammy acting, paper-thin characters, and oftentimes simply atrocious dialogue, “Deep Rising” still offers what few films can (giant killer mollusks, that is). Even though the dated computer effects detract from the overall awe of the monster, there are still some great moments buried beneath the layers of disappointment. A less serious cross between “Anaconda” and director Stephen Sommers’ own “The Mummy,” “Deep Rising” does accomplish what it sets out to do – it just doesn’t aim very high.
John Finnegan (Treat Williams) is a transporter for hire with the reckless belief that as long as the money’s there, no job is refused – and no questions are asked. His engineer, Joey Pantucci (Kevin J. O’Connor), feels differently, especially concerning their most recent clientele. A group of heavily armed mercenaries, led by the permanently grimacing Hanover (Wes Studi), demand to be transported far out into the ocean to a seemingly desolate spot. Once they reach their destination, Finnegan discovers too late the real motive; the reluctant pilot is forced to tag along on a grand heist of a luxurious multi-million dollar cruise liner. But something from deep within the ocean’s depths has beat them there, forcing the unsuspecting group of soldiers to embark on a new mission of survival against a foe of unimaginable power.
A few years after facing off against James Bond as Xenia Onatopp (and a few years before becoming part of a mutant love triangle in “X-Men”), Famke Janssen lends her talents to this passable thriller as a master thief caught up in the terror of the deep. Unfortunately, few others involved possess any real skills to offer, allowing Janssen to stand out as the sassy femme fatale – though perhaps the recognition is only due to everyone else’s inability to convincingly deliver the dismal dialogue. Treat Williams alternates between heroic and pathetic while Kevin J. O’Connor tries so diligently to milk laughs out of what he’s given that audiences will almost want to root for the guy – but more often than not he winds up being so annoying that viewers will pray he’s next on the victim list. The mercenaries are largely forgettable as well, though of note are small snippets from Djimon Hounsou (“Gladiator,” “Blood Diamond”) and Cliff Curtis (“The Fountain,” “Live Free or Die Hard”).
Anyone unknowledgeable about “Deep Rising’s” monstrous, murderous octopus twist is probably watching the film for the wrong reasons. The creature effects range from intriguing to discernibly dated and will likely only grow more wearisome with age due to the abundance of computer graphics. Wisely, the production reveals the full potential of the antagonist very gradually, so that by the time it’s rendered in all its glory, audiences will already be accustomed to the limitations of the time. For a picture whose most auspicious star is a CG, tentacled beast, “Deep Rising” isn’t the worst killer cephalopod movie out there. But those aren’t very promising odds.
– Joel Massie