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Deep Water

review by Anthony D.

 

 

Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 101 minutes

Starring: James Coburn, Costas Mandylor, Finola Hughes,Alex Hyde-White, Larry Poindexter

Written by: James Morley III & Keoni Waxman

Directed by: John Putch

 

Studio: Fox

Retail Price: $9.98

Features: Theatrical Trailer, Cast and Crew Biographies

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Frame, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (12 Scenes)

Released: December 18th, 2001

 

 

You could logically call it "The Oscar Curse," or you could just admit that "Deep Water" is the complete waste of celluloid that it has been suggested that it is. Working from a script that throws in everything (including the kitchen sink), Jean ("All in the Family") Stapleton's son, John Putch admirably tackles the difficult directing job of making the unwatchable watchable - without much success. (One knows that the script is the main culprit when A SHARK shows up in Chapter Nine). But, for me, I'd rather think of "Deep Water" as the direct result of James Coburn's Academy Award win (1998's "Affliction").

Everyone knows about "The Oscar Curse," don't they? Well, the simplest examples (we really don't want to spend a helluva lot of time on a movie that is a complete time waster) that come to mind are Louise Fletcher, Ben Kinglsey, Sally Field and, dare we say it, Marisa Tomei? Louise's career never charted following her Oscar for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and her follow-up film was . . . "The Exorcist II: The Heretic." Enough said. Kingley's well-deserved Oscar for "Gandhi" came to naught, maybe Hollywood actually thought that he WAS Indian until 2001's "Sexy Beast" really put him back on tinsel town's A-list. Marisa Tomei's (some say "accidental") win for "My Cousin Vinny" was the fodder for comedian's jokes for close to a decade, but like Kingley, rejuvenated her career in 2001 with a stunning performance in "In the Bedroom." One has to really pity Sally ("You like me, you really like me.")* Field, who after winning for "Norma Rae," followed some bad advice (allegedly given to her by her then-main-squeeze, Burt Reynolds) to take on a sure-fire commercial hit to cap off her Oscar victory. What sure fire hit was that? Well, I only bring it up because it is highly a propos to the dvd we're discussing - Field's follow-up film to "Norma Rae" was that classic of "what were they thinking?" filmmaking" "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure!"

"Deep Water" bears an uncanny resemblence to "The Poseidon Adventure;" hell, it bears a striking resemblence to "Titanic," "Jaws" (there IS that inexplicable shark in Chapter 9) and even television's "The Love Boat." An overturned ocean liner. An heiress taken against her will. An able crew. Trouble ahead. Does any of this ring a bell? Going on. A tidal wave of epic proportions. Men and women overboard. Beginning to sound even more familiar? What if I say, "Academy Award winning actor follows his win with a loss?" Ah, the mind boggles there, doesn't it? Think back: Sally Field (on the advice of her then-squeeze, Burt Reynolds) followed her "Norma Rae" Oscar with that notorious stinkeroonie, "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure;" Louise Fletcher flew off over the cuckoo's nest by tackling the incomprehensible "Exorcist II: The Heretict;" and Cuba Gooding, Jr.'s work post - "Jerry Maguire," can best be described as eclectic. Going back, there is a point to all of this. "Deep Water" tries too hard to be something that it's not, failing miserably to entice even the most popcorn-inclined film viewer.

Director John Putch is helped any by the cliche-ridden script by James Everett Morley and Darby Black. These screenwriters, and I use that term as loosely as possible, have cribbed nearly of "Deep Water's" script from past glories from far more (rightfully so) successful filmmakers. "Deep Water" is not quite the "shaken, not stirred martini" it would like us to think it is.

Pity poor James Coburn. It's bad enough that the man's arthritic hands are on deck, but this barely released 2000 film is that man's follow-up to his Oscar-winning turn in "Affliction!" Remind me again that the Oscar curse doesn't exist. How long did it take for Marisa Tomei to stop becoming an Oscar maven's punchline? Though top-billed, over a cast of television performers, Coburn is not given much to do as Captain Josephson, but to stand around with an imperturbable manner as disaster threatens. Disaster, indeed. You see, a nuclear explosion - set off by a terrorist has created the tidal wave which James Cameron's other-worldly creatures prophesied in "The Abyss!" The tidal wave has capsized the liner, U.S.S. Intrepid, with a set of passengers and crew who would not have been out of place aboard the S.S. Poseidon, another better film which "Deep Water" owes credit to. Even feisty Finola Hughes, the poor man's Emma Sams, bears an uncanny resemblance to "The Poseidon Adventure's" Pamela Sue Martin: which should really come as no surprise, since all three actresses served time on night-time soap operas. Even second-billed, though actually the film's star, Costas Mandylor did time on the charming series "Picket Fences."

John Putch has a great theatrical and film lineage behind him - aside from mom Jean Stapleton's well-known endeavors, Putch's father was the founder of The Totem Pole Playhouse in Fayettesville, PA; a theater where John trod the boards at an early age before becoming a recurring character on many television shows, most notably, "One Day at a Time." Putch has assembled "Deep Cover" with all the skills of an Ed Wood-wannabe, but without the inherent humor Wood was capable of arousing. "Deep Water" is cobbled together as if the axiom "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" was a watchcry which should be applied to filmmaking. Here a little "Titanic," there a little "Abyss," culminating in a film worthy of the late, lamented Golden Turkey Awards, as well being a candidate for Mystery Science Theater 3000's future viewing.

You see, the Intrepid is the latest in a new line of luxory liners (hmm, so was R.M.S. Titanic, and so was the S.S. Poseidon) siling out of Long Beach. California. Stock footage insures the life-like quality of this gigantic ship. A nuclear test blast (yeah, I'm gonna believe THAT one) causes the doomed liner to capsize - woohoo, just like that TIDAL WAVE did to The Poseidon - creating an upside down world inside The Intrepid. As if these were the worst of the problems with "Deep Water," there is also a plot device of having a gung-ho Marine stumbling into a kidnapping plot (now, having seen "The Poseidon Adventure"counless times, couldn't they have used this particular device to get rid of that obnoxious child actor, Eric Shea?) involving diamonds and an heiress. Crosses and double crosses abound, as if to supplant some sense of suspense into the procedings, while good actors such as Coburn, Costas Mandylor and Finola Hughes hyperventilate and curse like, well, sailors; never once creating believable characters, buyt proclaiming their lines as if they were gospel. The next time that John Putch decides to direct something, it should be titled "Deep Drek," since "Deep Water" is in no way *deep,* however water-logged it may be.

 

Fox's full-frame presentation of "DeepWater" looks damned good; if it weren't for the frequent flier miles accumulated by the floating "F"-word, I would swear that the film had been made for television. Nothing seems to be cramped by the film's limited aspect ratio, though this is the type of film that practically demands to be shot in Panavision. There's no grain to speak of; though I did find the picture a little too soft, possibly because of the cropping of the picture. However, never did I once notice any sharp pans indicative of a heavy-handed pan-and-scan job.

 

This is a fairly potent Dolby Digital mix thown in, like everything else about "Deep Water," the film rarely garners enough potential to warrant a 5.1 mix. Sure there are little rumblings as the nuclear-induced tidal wave erupts, and they are just as well served by the 2.0 stereo surround mix, which is not that much different than the upgraded mix. You can access Spanish or English subtitles, as well as the standard excellently produced Closed Captioning, but alas, "Deep Water" provides no foriegn language track. Pity, maybe "Deep Water" would play better in Portuguese.

 

A non-exciting trailer, and some sketchy biographical texts are all the extras afforded. I dunno whether to be praising or pouting over the lack of a director's commentary, but in this case, I think I'll just be thankful that I don't know what John Putch (or any one of the talents involved) was thinking when they gave a gung-ho, "Aye, aye" to making "Deep Water."

 

This "Deep Water" is definitely water to pass.