Preliminary reports on Submerged were bad. In fact, when we were buying up the DVDs initially there were some gaps (and we still don’t have Ticker) but one of the first gaps filled was Submerged. It was bought to be an example of the very worst we could expect from Steven Seagal’s straight-to-DVD fare. However, Pod and I both found it to be enjoyable nonsense, definitely better than either The Glimmer Man or The Foreigner and I’m sorry to say I think we actually enjoyed it more than Into the Sun on that particular evening.
The story’s some bullshit about a mind control program. There’s some scientist-type motherfucker that walks around in a white suit with a cane and a hat which really telegraphs the whole evil genius thing. He’s definitely not using mind control to try to cure autism or something. So there are a couple of unrelated scenes at the start. There’s one of him arriving at a dam with a mouthy spanish-sounding clearly-renegade Colonel (the evil rank) and another one of some random group of soldiers / mercs who get dropped into a really stupid situation. They jump out of a helicopter and take up the formation of a straight line. They’re at the bottom of a hill. But then they’re ambushed by a bunch of guys on the hill and on top of that one of them gets mind controlled to fuck and turns on the others. The bit with the overacting colonel isn’t important. The evil dam hideout gets blown up by something, I can’t remember but the soldiers do recur. It’s all bullshit.
The first time we see Seagal is a huge way into the film. It’s been too long and I can’t remember the exact circumstances but I think he and his unit are being held under indefinite court-martial for disobeying orders or some such. But I’m pretty sure they did it to save some people or something. Anyway we’re introduced to them not through banter (although there’s lots of interminable ribbing so we know they’re a team) but by their names and specialties being stamped up on (I think) a freeze-frame. It’s meant to let you know who they are, but it just lets you know they’re expendable so don’t get too attached. So they’re enlisted to bust up the dam possibly and rescue the captured soldiers. But along for the ride is Gorman from Aliens who represents either the agency that asks them to do the job even though they look more like the army or maybe he’s with someone else. The NSA are usually the naughty agency, maybe he’s with them. Whoever he’s with, he’s dirty. They get around this by having Seagal’s team ditch him in what looks like a mean prank only to have it turn out there was a metric shit-tonne of bad guys waiting for them. So as usual the plot is a peat bog of nonsense, but it trundles along better than Into the Sun because it has well-defined, if cartoonish, characters and somehow I didn’t find myself questioning it as much. Maybe Into the Sun had tired me out.
I’m sure you’re wondering when the submerged part comes in. Well, it’s soon. Part of their escape plan was to exfiltrate (that’s a real word, check it) using a submarine that was housed at the dam? Maybe. I’ve just realised how absurd that is. Anyway, they get in and get the soldiers out in a battle with possibly the least thrilling climax I’ve ever seen. A bunch of bad guys in fatigues (I can’t remember who they were and I don’t know if I knew at the time) and a TANK move towards our ragtag group of heroes through a big underground tunnel (like in Die Hard 3). Now let me explain this further. Seagal’s team, encumbered by unconscious marines, stand at one end of an enclosed cylinder with machine guns. The bad guys, similarly equipped, but with a FUCKING TANK advance towards them down the tunnel. Now, they’ve got the tank for cover. Seagal’s group take no cover whatsoever. They swap some very disengaging gunfire in which I think no-one gets hit. Then Seagal rushes out and beats all of the soldiers hand to hand. I can’t remember what happened to the tank. They get everyone onto the submarine and submerge the fuck. The special effects for this are surprisingly ok.
After they’re on the sub it takes a really fucking long time for the inevitable to happen: the soldiers they rescued turn and try to kill everyone and destroy the sub. Before that we get a lot of bullshit posturing between Seagal’s ex-girlfriend and the scientist woman I forgot to mention they picked up somewhere. This whole submerged sequence lasts maybe fifteen minutes. A bunch of mercs whose names you don’t remember get killed, Seagal and a few others escape, including Vinnie Jones and the two girls.
The rest of the film is a blur to me. The finale happens at an opera where one of the mind-controlled people is meant to be assassinating someone. There’s a bunch of shooting, Vinnie Jones dies what feels like a disproportionately violent death for the character and then some of them end up in a secret lab somewhere and all of the villains die with bleeding eyes. We’d both gotten pretty tired of it by this point, but we were never as bored as in Into the Sun or The Glimmer Man. We were confused, yes, but it was that kind of confusion you can let wash over you when you know it’s w delightfully badly told story you’re failing to keep up with instead of Memento or something.
What I haven’t yet mentioned is the most important aspect of this entire escapade: Over half of Steven Seagal’s lines are not spoken by Steven Seagal. I’ve noticed a little bit of overdubbung here and there in the other films but this isn’t tidying up, this is just all the time. In fact, the distribution is so close to 50/50 that it never feels like there’s one voice, so it’s not like either of them is jarring or out of place, it’s just this wonderfully surreal experience of watching a character with two voices. I don’t know why some of the lines were looped. Apparently the film was originally conceived as having mutants somewhere so obviously the script went through some changes and I imagine they dubbed it to try to hold the damn thing together, but some of the strangest lines are overdubbed. Anyway, this was the first movie Pod and I watched where the looped dialogue was this ridiculous and blatant and frequent. I imagine the effect will become tiresome eventually, but we enjoyed this as a grand foray into silliness, bafflement and beautiful, innocent ineptitude.
Originally Posted 19 November 2009.