Submerged (2005) / Action-Thriller

MPAA Rated: R for strong violence and language
Running Time: 94 min.

Cast: Steven Seagal, Vinnie Jones, Nick Brimble, Christine Adams, William Hope, Alison King, Stephen Da Costa, Gary Daniels
Director: Anthony Hickox
Screenplay: Anthony Hickox, Paul de Souza

Slickly produced, Submerged is nevertheless a by-the-numbers action vehicle for Steven Seagal (Into the Sun, Exit Wounds) that will probably please his staunchest fans, but will do little to resurrect him back to the prominence he once held in the forefront of American action flicks.  These sorts of things can happen when you're currently making films in Bulgaria instead.  At this point in his career, Seagal looks bloated, tired and completely bored, and why shouldn't he be?  This is but one of six films he is making in the year 2005 alone!

Seagal plays Chris Cody, an elite soldier that has been spending time in prison for illegally thwarting a terrorist attack that the UN didn't believe was about to happen.  Cody is sprung from prison because the government needs his skills and expertise in order to secure the return of several terrorists in custody of Arian Lehder, an even bigger terrorist honcho.  Along with a crew of similarly talented incarcerated soldiers, Cody agrees to the mission in exchange for a full pardon and a tidy sum of cash.  However, once the mission is complete, Cody and company find themselves embroiled in a conspiracy to utilize new brainwashing techniques to control people using top secret technological advances, and the only ones who can stop it are the ragtag crew of convicts.

Written and directed by longtime z-grade horror maestro Anthony Hickox (Waxwork, Hellraiser III), Submerged proves to be one of his better efforts as a director, although his tendency to utilize excessive jump cuts and slow-motion shots of the men doing the bad-ass group walk gives away his discomfort in filming outside of the horror genre.  The plot is interesting, albeit a little too Manchurian Candidate to be truly fresh, but excessive plotting in a Seagal film always seem to get in the way, and this one's no exception.  Still, this is a damn fine looking film for a straight-to-video production, with sleek cinematography, vibrant colors, and terrific lighting.  The costumes, weapons, and sets are all excellent for a relatively low budget undertaking.

Still, no amount of spit and polish will disguise the fact that Submerged is a b-movie action vehicle starring a former action superstar past his prime in both physical prowess and charisma.  Seagal isn't even playing to his strengths here, with almost no martial arts employed and no Asian philosophy to speak of.  As a Navy commando, he's like a fish out of water, and the production as a whole suffers for it.  While it's good to see that there are still decent production values in Seagal's films, as long as the scripts are this slapdash, a return to form for Seagal as action star seems about as remote as him returning to the svelte figure he had in his younger days.

Qwipster's rating:

2005 Vince Leo