• Deep Rising (Kino Lorber Studio Classics) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
    Released on: August 21st, 2018.
    Director: Stephen Sommers
    Cast: Treat Williams, Famke Jenssen, Anthony Heald, Kevin J. O'Connor, Wes Studi, Derrick O'Connor
    Year: 1998
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    Deep Rising – Movie Review:

    Written and directed by Stephen Sommers before he went on to helm legitimate blockbusters in the form of 1999’s The Mummy, its first sequel and the mess that was 2004’s Van Helsing, 1998’s Deep Rising introduces us to John Finnegan (Treat Williams). He’s a Han Solo-esque captain of a small but fast ship manned by mechanic Joey Pantucci (Kevin J. O'Connor) and right-hand woman Leila (Una Damon) and the kind of guy you go to if you need quick oceanic transportation without wanting to answer a lot of questions. His latest batch of customers is a group of mercenaries led by Hanover (Wes Studi), a not so friendly guy whose motley crew of manly men carry giant machine guns.

    Finnegan is unaware of where he’s taking this group until their ship gets mangled by… something… out of the deep. As they close in on a huge cruise ship dubbed Argonautica, hoping to use its machine shop to get their ship back in order, the pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place. See, when they board the Argonautica they can’t help but notice its communications are down and most of its passengers are dead. Captain Atherton (Derrick O’Connor) is still alive, as is the owner, Simon Canon (Anthony Heald), but aside from those two and a fancy thief named Trillian St. James (Famke Janssen) stowed away in the cooler there don’t appear to be any other survivors. Why? Because the ‘thing’ that wrecked Finnegan’s ship has done a number on this ocean liner as well… and as the details of the plot unfold a whole lot of people are going to get killed.

    Borrowing elements from Alien and The Poseidon Adventure alike, Deep Rising is a film populated with cliché characters who frequently make questionable decisions. The story doesn’t offer up much in the way of originality or food for thought, and it never even tries for ‘smarts.’ The twists that the story contains are neither surprising nor unique and there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before, and done with more originality than Sommers and company offer here.

    That said, Deep Rising is fun. It’s a lot of fun, actually. The film makes use of a mix of practical and digital effects, and if that digital side of that equation very obviously looks like the product of the late nineties that it is, the practical side holds up really well. There is some solid gore here and a few genuinely exciting set pieces, right down to the completely over the top and highly improbable big finish where the two people you know are going to make it out alive do just that. Thankfully the movie never takes itself too seriously, meaning that we don’t have to either.

    The performances are pretty much exactly what you’d expect and exactly what you’d want from a popcorn movie like this. Williams is the likeable rascal that carries the film, channeling Harrison Ford and Tim Thomerson in equal doses and doing a fine job of it. Janssen gets plenty of screen time here and looks great. Her character has a smart mouth on her and she’s able to easily hold her own against a primarily male crew. Kevin J. O’Connor is there mainly to provide comic relief, and he does just that and little more, while Wes Studi makes a delightfully sinister villain. Throw in the underrated Anthony Heald as the shifty owner of the boat and yeah, this works.

    Production values are strong – this movie had a pretty sizeable budget – and Jerry Goldsmith’s score does a good job of classing up a movie that isn’t really all that classy. Yeah, Deep Rising is fun. It’s not a thinking person’s film and it doesn’t aspire to be high art, but if you find yourself in the mood to turn off your brain and enjoy something that doesn’t ask you to think too hard (and we all have those days), this one fits the bill nicely.

    Deep Rising – Blu-ray Review:

    Deep Rising is presented on a 50GB disc with the feature given over 31GBs of space. Framed at 2.35.1 and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. The transfer is a good one, the film is given plenty of breathing room and as such it’s free of obvious compression issues. The picture is clean, showing no print damage at all, while detail is generally good. The film often takes place inside a lot of dimly lit interiors and so it doesn’t really show off how good Blu-ray can look in this regard, but it looks like it should look. Colors look nice, especially in the lighter scenes such as those that are shot inside the lavish cruise ship before it all hits the fan, and skin tones appear lifelike and natural.

    Kino provides DTS-HD 5.1 Surround 2.0 Stereo options for the movie with optional English closed captioning available. The 5.1 mix is pretty solid, spreading out the effects and the score (from Jerry Goldsmith) really nicely during the action scenes while keeping the dialogue primarily upfront. Balance is good throughout and there’s nice bass response here as well. The track is clean and clear and free of any hiss or distortion.

    Kino has gone all in on this special edition Blu-ray release as far as the extra features are concerned, beginning with an audio commentary track featuring director Stephen Sommers and editor Bob Ducsay. It’s an enjoyable track with a decent sense of humor to it that sees the pair talking about the effects featured in the picture, the set design, the script, problems that they ran into on set, their thoughts on the final product and more.

    After that, dive into the first of eight interviews, starting with actor Wes Studi who speaks for eight minutes about his part in the film, his thoughts on playing the villainous Hanover, how cold it was on set during the shoot, how he got along with his co-stars. From there, actor Kevin O'Connor gets fourteen minutes in front of the camera to talk about how much he enjoyed working with Sommers, what he was able to bring to the role outside of what was provided in the script, the effects work and yet more about what it was like working in the damp cold! Actor Anthony Heald is up next in a thirteen-minute piece wherein he shares insight into his character and his death scene, quirks of his performance, details of how he stayed organized during the shoot and just how much it sucks to get a staph infection on a movie set far away from a hospital.

    With the cast members out of the way, we talk to second unit director Dean Cundey who talks for twelve-minutes about how and why he wound up working on this production, how experience on past films he’d worked on proved invaluable during this production and the difficulties of having to shoot around so much water. Cinematographer Howard Atherton gets fourteen minutes in front of the camera after that, talking about how he became involved with the shoot, complexities of the production, working with Sommers and some of the other big budget productions that he has had the opportunity to work on over the years. VFX guys John Berton (of ILM) and Van Ling (of Banned From The Ranch Entertainment) show up next in a seventeen-minute piece where they talk about the advances and limitations inherent in digital effects of the late nineties. There’s a lot of talk here about what CGI allowed them to accomplish on this film, how tricky it was to stay consistent with four different digital effects teams employed on the same movie, and how all involved were able to collaborate together during the making of the production. Lastly, SFX/makeup artists Brad Proctor and Doug Morrow get to spend nine-minutes sharing stories about their work on the film, going into some welcome detail about the practical effects work that the film showcases. Lots of talk here about the movie’s gorier moments, what went into creating that giant room full of corpses, tricks of the trade that were employed and quite a bit more.

    The disc also contains a selection of ILM’s behind-the-scenes footage, broken down into the following sequences: the eight-minute Animatic Final Sequence, the nineteen-minute Creature 1, the four-minute Creature 2, the two-minute DR Tests, the two-minute DR16 Breakdown and the three-minute Mason. This material is all presented in standard definition and it is a little worse for wear but it offers an interesting glimpse into what went into creating many of the effects showcases that are featured in the picture.

    Finishing off an impressive array of supplements is an animated still gallery comprised of production stills and behind-the-scenes material, an original theatrical trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. As to the packaging, Kino provides some cool reversible cover sleeve art with the (fairly lackluster) original poster art on one side and the much cooler newly commissioned art from Jacob Phillips on the other side. The Phillips art is also reproduced on the limited-edition slipcover that comes with the first pressing of the disc.

    Deep Rising – The Final Word:

    Deep Rising might be dumb as a bag of hammers but damn if it isn’t a lot of goofy fun. Treat Williams carries the film well and the supporting players are all pretty enjoyable in their respective (and highly cliché) roles. As to the disc itself, it looks and sounds really good and there are more extras here than anyone probably rightly expected, all of which adds a lot of value to this super-stacked special edition release.

    Click on the images below for full sized Deep Rising Blu-ray review screen captures!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. bgart13's Avatar
      bgart13 -
      As I recall, Rob Bottin is credited with creature design for this.