Wasn't Submerged supposed to feature Steven Seagal fighting mutants on a submarine deep below the surface of the ocean? I seem to remember that being the general idea behind this one when it was announced awhile ago. Well, something happened (rewrites, I'd guess) and the mutants were completely taken out of the script and replaced with a mind control scientist guy, and apparently the submarine wasn't that important because it's only in the film for ten minutes. But hey, it's a Steven Seagal movie, who cares as long as it's got loads of ass kicking in it, right? Right. Sadly, post production tinkering rendered this puppy useless in that department too.
The plot, if you can call it that, involves a bad ass named Chris Cody (Seagal) who is sprung from military prison to lead a group of tough guys into a hot spot where they need to spring some American soldiers who are being held as prisoners of war. It seems that these unfortunate soldiers were trying to take down the mind control scientist guy, and they got captured by the bad guys when they were distracted by a woman and her exploding goats (seriously). Things go wrong, and they end up having to head on off to Montevideo where El Presidente is surprised by the rioting going on in the streets. I guess some higher ups in the government there have got ties to the mind control scientist guy, and Cody and his team of experts (we know they're experts because when we first see them the screen freezes and flashes their name and their weapons specialty at us for a second or two – who needs character development?) will have to stop at nothing to make sure that they're stopped once and for all. Along the way, they hang out in submarine for about ten minutes before it blows up and sinks just like the Titanic (watch for the sinking scene and you can't help but notice this).
I swear to God, this movie was edited by an epileptic color blind six year old with attention deficit disorder. The colors in this movie are so over saturated (intentionally) and the editing is so rapid fire that at times I felt like the movie was going to give me a seizure. The angles change literally like once every five seconds. There are moments in the film where instead of showing the characters walking for a ten second clip, the filmmakers chose to cut three times in that same ten second time frame to give the effect that they're time traveling or something. The end result is an ugly and a very, very, very retarded looking film. Everything is so hyperactive that the end result is almost unwatchable. There were times during the film, specifically during the action scenes, where there's so much cutting and zipping and zapping and slow mo and speed up and what-the-Hell-were-they-thinking going on that I literally yelled at the screen in pain.
So why on Earth would anyone want to watch this film? Well, for the comedy. There are some truly hilarious moments, all of which relate to Seagal. First off, there's the voice. He's dubbed, and he's dubbed very poorly for almost the entire film. Seeing Seagal at this point in his life swearing in a poorly dubbed Cajun accent is funny, I don't care what anyone says. Then there's the obvious hiding of Seagal's body. It's rare that you see him from the waist up, and when you do, more often than not it's an obvious body double standing in for him. There are two scenes in which the guy in the long black leather coat doesn't even look like Seagal, and these are the scenes where we see him from the waist down. Third, there's an absolutely amazing moment towards the end of the film were Steve kicks a guy in the gut and sends him through a window and then about two hundred feet through the air. Did someone give Seagal (or, more accurately, his stunt double) bionic legs? Maybe if he had bionic legs, this would be possible, but the film doesn't mention bionic legs at all, only mind control powers.
The film has some other notables involved in it, that adds to the weirdness. The director is Anthony Hickox, the man responsible for Waxwork and Hellraiser III (better known as 'the one with the CD face Cenobite), and Gary Daniels who starred opposite Don 'The Dragon' Wilson in Ring Of Fire and Bloodfist IV shows up here too. William Hope of Hellraiser II (this movie has strange Hellraiser ties) and XXX has a small role, as does Vinnie Jones of Snatch. None of these people are able to stop the film from sucking like a chest wound, but they are there and I'd feel bad if I didn't mention it.
The 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen does provide a nice reproduction of a crappy looking film. With the colors pumped up as high as they are in this film and with the continues cutting and what not it's hard to really give an accurate grade to the overall picture as the quality of each shot tends to be all over the place, but for the most part, if I had to guess, I'd say that this DVD probably does a pretty accurate job of reproducing the look of the film the way that the filmmakers intended. There aren't any mpeg compression issues, edge enhancement is minimal, and the black levels and shadows (which play in important part in hiding Seagal's aging physique) are strong and don't break up at all.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track is fine. It's not the best I've ever heard, but it does bring Seagal's bad Cajun accent to life and the dialogue is clean and clear and easy to understand over top of the sound effects and ever so emotive score. There are a few scenes that do make nice use of the rear surround channels, notably a couple of the explosions and shoot outs in the film, where debris and bullets zip past you, which adds a little bit to the film – it's still not enough to save it, but it does help a bit.
The only extra features on this disc are a few trailers for other straight to video action movies from Columbia/Tri-Star, not that the movie really warranted anything else…
Even the hardest of hardcore Steven Seagal fans are going to have trouble getting through this one. The filmmaker's tried to hide the absolutely incoherent storyline by burying it in flashy post production editing and CGI silliness and all it did was make things worse. After Into The Sun I'd hoped old Stevey was on the comeback trail but this is truly bottom of the barrel stuff. It might make for a good drinking movie to watch with a group as it has quite a bit of unintentional comedy, but other than that, stay far, far, far away from Submerged. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.