I cannot say I have a huge liking for Steven Seagals wooden acting, which is never limited to anything more than a smugly self-righteous smile and a menacing tight-lipped glower, or his martial arts prowess, which usually focuses on a nastily sadistic brutality in the last few minutes of Submerged, for instance, Seagal takes on a hulking heavy, whom he despatches by grabbing a handgun and shooting the man at point blank range, splattering his brains over the wall.
There is no point ever trying to judge a Steven Seagal film by the same standards that you would the works of Shakespeare. A Steven Seagal film can only be seen in terms of its expectations and delivery to the market it is aimed at and as such Submerged is a work that is neither a classic nor as dreadful as some of Seagals other works have gotten. The film starts out as a Dirty Dozen (1967)-styled adventure with Seagal and his team released from custody to undertake a tough mission each of the team gets introduced in a still frame on their face and a listing of their nickname and field of expertise. You are not entirely sure if the Dirty Dozen-type adventure and a Steven Seagal movie go hand in hand Seagal does not exactly strike one as someone who likes to share the screen or appear as part of a team. (Oddly, for a Dirty Dozen-like plot, the teams various skills and individual quirks are never of much relevance to the story).
The other thing you notice is that by its very title and certainly by the tagline terror has been launched undersea and the illustration on the dvd cover is that Submerged gives the appearance of being a submarine adventure along the lines of Crimson Tide (1995), Crash Dive (1996) or Danger Beneath the Sea (2001). However, this is not quite the case some of the action takes place on a submarine during the middle of the film but the submarine is then sunken and all parties evacuate to land and the bulk of the rest of the film takes place there. One amusing aspect to note is how Seagal and his team make their escape from the terrorists hideout by just happening upon the submarine, as though that is the most natural piece of equipment to have hanging around a terrorist cell.
In the directors chair is Anthony Hickox. Hickox started out as a horror director in the late 1980s, making efforts like Waxwork (1988), Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1990), Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992), Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992), Warlock: The Armageddon (1993) and Full Eclipse (1993), as well as a tatty sword-and-sorcery outing Prince Valiant (1997). Since then Hickox has abandoned horror filmmaking and specialises in thrillers and action films with the likes of Invasion of Privacy (1996), Storm Catcher (1999), Contaminated Man (2000), Jill the Ripper (2000), Last Run (2001), Federal Protection (2002), Consequence (2003), Blast (2004) and Knife Edge (2009).
Anthony Hickox delivers a reasonably competent action film. Submerged appears to have been designed for theatrical release rather than the small-screen, notably when it comes to modestly lavishly scaled sequences like the sinking of the submarine, the chases through the streets of Montevideo and the climactic shootout at the opera. The only minus might be an irritating series of jumpcuts that Hickox keeps throwing in at random points in the midst of action. The good news is that the action moves at a sufficiently entertaining pace that Steven Seagals grating presence never shows up on screen much and when he is there he is usually surrounded by other members of his team to offset this. The show is frequently stolen by British footballer Vinnie Jones who gets some of the most amusing lines When I get out of these shackles, youll be butt-fucked, you cock-sucking wop motherfucker and In my book only queers and penguins go to the opera and one suspects would make a far more charismatic action star than Steven Seagal.
(Review copy provided courtesy of Ryan Kenner from Movies in the Attic).