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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Little-Late Film Review: Depth Charge

Depth Charge.  2008 RHI Productions.  Photo:

Depth Charge is an insanely stupid action thriller about an evil commander who takes over a US Naval sub with the threat of firing nuclear weapons if a one-billion-dollar ransom is not met.  Commander Krieg, played by Eric Roberts, is a cookie-cutter villain who is angry about being passed up for promotion time and again.  It is also noted that he is in debt (aren’t we all?) and is taking meds for a brain tumor that cause him to exhibit psychotic behavior.  It is up to a doctor named… well, Doc, and a young electrical officer named James Piersall to fight of an entire crew of generic terrorists and save the day. 

I tried to find something about this movie I liked but I really couldn’t.  This is an example of a film that should not have made it to release.  Though it was a straight-to-TV title that did not get a wide release, it is amazing that this film had an obviously bigger budget than a smaller film like Once, but remains a joke in comparison.  It is a shoddy movie filled with clichés and some of the silliest dialogue I have heard in a very, very long time.

To start, the hero is a mind-numbing bore.  Jason Gedrick’s performance is expressionless, emotionless, forgettable and just plain dull.  Seriously, this guy makes Steven Seagal look like freaking Laurence Olivier.  Every scene where he contacts the bad guys he opens with what just might be the silliest catchphrases of the year: “Get off my sub!”  That this is a blatant rip-off of Harrison Ford’s line from Air Force One is one thing, the fact that it is used three times is utterly unbearable.  It’s up to the screenplay (more on that in a moment) to guide the story along and provide the lines that keep the film entertaining, but when the best catchphrase you can come up with is “Get off my sub”, maybe you aren’t trying.  Judging by this performance alone, Gendrick appears to be an utterly amateur actor as he mumbles his lines and squints and grunts his way through the film.

The villain, Kreig, does not fare much better.  Eric Roberts has been around a long time, he even grabbed an Oscar nomination back in 1985, but today he is more or less a C-Grade star.  He isn’t a bad actor really, he just picks the most unfortunate screenplays.  He’s cashing a check here as he passively reads his villain lines that would have been dated in 1995, just filling in a reason to show violence on screen.  The biggest problem with Krieg is that his motives are only speculated on and are never really examined, which just makes this movie violence for violence’s sake.  For that matter, it is poorly done violence, with brings me to one of the most important part of an action movie, the action.

Each fight scene is extremely brief (about six to eight seconds at a time), uninteresting and chaotically filmed.  The shot is framed on the backs of the actors on  in the shot or off to the side while one actor is pinned off screen.  These scenes share similar cinematography with the popular amateur backyard wrestling videos you would find on YouTube.  The gunfights are similarly obscured by poor direction.  The camera still focusing on the backs and backs of the heads of the shooters or targets, obscuring what is going on further down in the shot.  Also, the stupidity of these scenes is just laughable, people can’t seem to hit each other when they are about four to six feet away. 

The film closes out with a very anticlimactic shootout, which goes back to the 6-8 second action scenes this movie is using, and all of the sudden this doctor who joined the Navy knows everything about driving a submarine and knows how to use all of its functions to stop a nuclear warhead.  Ok so the doctor is a turbo-fighting action star and knows how to drive a submarine?!?  Who the hell is this guy?!?  I believe we are supposed to be asking ourselves those questions but the movie never really explains why this guy is the Macguyver of the Navy.  This leaves Doc’s talents to be less plot-point and head towards the realm of convenient-plot-contrivance.

As I was watching Depth Charge (yes, I intentionally chose a 1-star recommendation) for this review, I thought “Well, it’s not that bad.  It is loaded with clichés and silly dialogue but I have definitely seen worse.”  Around the end of the second act, we are introduced to characters pretending to write on a touch-screen monitor with a stylus, when they’re really writing on a standard monitor (CRT for my fellow nerds out there) with a red colored pencil. At this point I found myself in awe of the ineptitude of this film.  For the most part, it’s the little things that trained movie fans would get while casual watchers wouldn’t (going back to the cinematography), but it’s also the choppy editing, which seems a little borrowed from Michael Bay, and the cheap props and absurd plot devices.  There’s also the poor sound mixing that has the music so loud that you actually cannot hear the actors at times, which is kind of a good thing because the dialogue is horrible.  All of these problems come together to form a laughably stupid, poorly filmed disaster that ranks among the worst made-for-TV movies ever released. 

Congratulations Depth Charge, you’re my first 0/5!!!

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