Every direct-to-video (DTV) action star, it seems, has again had a share of mainstream success recently. Van Damme did voice work for Kung Fu Panda 2; Lundgren popped up in The Expendables; and Seagal did Machete. In between times it seems like they fell off the map and resurfaced, but in reality they’ve been cranking out these straight-to-bargain bin movies, which more often than not don’t add up to the sum of their parts. Well, these films are action porno – there’s very little time for characterisation. BUT – having said that there’s the occasional gem that’s more entertaining than it has a right to be. Van Damme delivered Until Death, which was pretty impressive as a character piece as well as a thriller, and Seagal delivered Submerged, which at least gets points for effort.
Mind control! That’s what it is all about. The film opens a bit confusingly as it sets up its mind control plot. Oh, and watch out for those horrible model shots in the sky. Eventually we get a team of men sent on a mission with their leader, played by one-time Brit action star Gary Daniels (also in The Expendables). Things go horribly wrong and he and a few others are caught by a mad scientist who brainwashes them.
A second team is put together from a bunch of military convicts – this time lead by Mr Seagal (who gets a slo-mo rock music intro). His team is introduced via freeze frames and name captions, including the old bad guy geezer from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and speaking of which, also Vinnie Jones! Jones gets to throw a variety of insults around, including asking a guy how he’d like to be “butt fucked, you cock smoking motherfucker?” And off they go on their rescue mission.
The bad guys are William Hope (last time I saw him he was playing Lt Gorman in Aliens) and Nick Brimble (or Little John from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) as the mad scientist.
The main problem with Submerged is the title. You half expect Die Hard on a submarine with that title, or at least the film’s action largely to take place aboard one, but nope. At around the 33-minute mark, after rescuing the remainder of Team A, they board the vessel. Team A then goes nuts and sabotage everything (and then die in the process in some of the film’s worst action editing). And then we’re off the sub again.
Seagal makes short work of Daniels in this section, and it’s a damn shame because that surely is a lost opportunity. The fight is intercut with other fights, and it’s hard to see what happens with each. I personally put the blame on the ageing Seagal – he’s not quite at his fittest and doesn’t make the fights worth a damn.
The second half of the film finds Seagal with a rather interesting voice. Either he’s caught a cold, or a young boy is doing an impersonation of him and they dubbed it over. Either way, he doesn’t deliver much on the action front until near the end. It’s left to Brimble and Jones to have all the fun with their parts.
The action finale at the opera house is at least a step up. And then one final showdown with our lead villains at their lab finds business finished for good. Until, of course, our remaining heroes sit around for a relaxing drink – only to deliver a bit of a cheap final twist.
Submerged is better than most of Seagal’s DTV output. But it still has many immediate flaws – mostly relating to the man himself.