Submerged (2005) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Some day I expect to hear this on the Oscars: "And the award for the best actor goes to ...

... Bulgaria."

Bulgaria has now shown an acting versatility that would make Alec Guinness envious. You think DeNiro made an impressive physical metamorphosis in Raging Bull? Well, I ask you this: could DeNiro play the part of Uruguay? OK, maybe he could play Paraguay or Bolivia, I'll give you that, but how could Mr. Method Acting Genius fake a coastline?

You will note the incredible attention to detail in Bulgaria's clever  disguise shown to the right.

That is just so wrong in so many ways.

First of all, it's a neo-classical building with an elaborate bas-relief placed just above ... an obviously tacked-on paper sign.

Second, it is not one paper sign, but two, and you can see they aren't aligned properly! The right side is lower.

Third, it's a "national opera", not a "city opera", and would therefore be the "Opera Nacional de Uruguay." Think about it, if Canada had a National Opera Company headquartered in Ottawa, would the building say National Opera of Canada, or National Opera of Ottawa? Get my drift? Ottawa is not a nation. Neither is Montevideo.

Oh, well. I guess it might have been worse. At least that sign wasn't written in the Cyrillic alphabet, like some of the street signs in "Montevideo."

I have to say one thing for the director of this film. He has a sense of humor. Note the frame to the left, picturing that mighty warship, the USS Clinton.

I suppose it is only right that the most powerful naval vessel should be named after Bill Clinton. After all, he's the one President most closely associated with seamen.

I don't think it should be stationed in the Atlantic, however. It should be permanently moored in Bangkok. And of course, they should never assign female officers to the Clinton, for fear they will go down on it. To be honest, the USS Clinton should really have been a sub. Not only are subs associated with going down, but that would certainly give  new meaning to "raising the periscope" and "blowing the ballast".

In the film, however, the USS Clinton was a carrier that never came to port. It stayed permanently at sea for strategic reasons. When it needed anything, it was simply serviced by the USS Lewinsky.

OK, I got that out of my system. Back to the movie.

Submerged could have been entered in The Simpsons' famous Stock Footage Film Festival. Every time they needed an establishing shot of the exterior of the mighty USS Clinton, the director showed stock newsreel footage - and each time it was a different carrier! Sometimes the changes were pretty obvious. First we're looking at a conventional Forrestal-class carrier with a big number 62 painted on it. (Naval records show that to be the now-decommissioned Independence, below left.) Then we're looking at a larger nuclear carrier with a big ol' 65 painted on it. (That would be the Enterprise, below right.) Even a landlubber like me can see that the fokkin' jumbo-ass numbers are different!

Did I mention that I'm supposed to be talking about a Steven Seagal movie? The big fella's career keeps making wild swerves. In the earlier part of this decade, it seemed that he was all but through. In 2003, his weight was out of control and he made back-to-back awful movies directed by Michael Oblowitz: The Foreigner and Out for a Kill. Then, somehow, miraculously, Seagal made a partial comeback. He took greater control of his projects, helped with the script ideas, moved back into Asian locales, and slimmed down enough to throw out his muu-muus and do his own fight scenes. The next three films were a marked improvement over those two earlier disasters.

I'm sad to say that Submerged represents a backslide for the Weighty Warrior. It isn't as bad as those two Oblowitz films, but it's near the bottom of Seagal's career achievements.

And being near the bottom of Seagal's filmography is ... well, this isn't some picky guy like Edward Norton or John Casale we're talking about here, this is Seagal. Even his best film of the present century is only rated 5.29, and that's not for lack of trying because he makes two per year. The overall standard notwithstanding, Seagal's best films, and even his mediocre films like Belly of the Beast, are fun for his fans, and there must still be plenty of those because the man keeps working.

Frankly, Seagal can't be blamed for the quality of this movie. It is just a bad project in general, and it is not tailored for the Chinless Commando in any way. The Conquering Chowhound plays the generic leader of a bunch of generic bad-ass mercenaries. The role doesn't call for any martial arts expertise; doesn't take place in Asia; doesn't even make use of any of Seagal's interest in Asian cultures - not one fokkin' ceremonial sword in the entire film. The story is supposed to take place in Uruguay although, as we've already noted, the role of Uruguay is played by Bulgaria. When the action is not in Uruguay/Bulgaria, it is on a submarine which, given Seagal's girth, is not the ideal locale for action scenes involving the Full-Figured Fighter. I imagine they had to enlarge the opening just to get him in there. The premise of the film involves mind-control, ala The Manchurian Candidate. An evil doctor has devised a method to trigger post-brainwashing suggestions through radio waves generated through his hand-held computer and transmitted by satellite. Using his evil iPod, he exercises mind control over various human puppets. The Uruguayan government wants this power. The Uruguayan rebels want this power. Uruguayan corporations want this power. Amazingly, however, nobody outside of Uruguay wants this power, not even from across the bay in Buenos Aires. I guess his evil iPod only works within the range of his wi-fi provider in Sofia - er, I mean Montevideo.

Anyway the movie is grade-Z crap, and almost completely without life. Seagal has never exactly been Samuel L Jackson in the flamboyance  department to begin with, but here he mumbles all of his lines more quietly than ever, and his laid-back style is matched by several others in the film. Even the evil scientist is more pragmatic than sinister. The film would be almost totally devoid of flair except for the presence of Vinnie Jones, who plays Seagal's second-in-commando with his usual working class tough guy panache.



  • No features
  • Widescreen, 16x9 enhanced.



None in the movie proper.

The only nudity comes in the opening credits, which are laid out as a musical montage with symbolic visuals, like the opening credits of a James Bond film.

The Critics Vote ...

  • No major review online

The People Vote ...

  • Straight to vid
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a D, a marked decline from Seagal's last few films. It isn't really a Seagal project at all, but a generic straight-to-vid action pic in which Seagal's role could have been played by just about anyone in Hollywood except Reese Witherspoon.

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