This week ‘Touchstone and Beyond’ sets sail for a little rest and relaxation on the high seas with a leisurely cruise on the Hollywood Pictures film Deep Rising. This 1998 adventure is sure to thrill audiences with its cast led by Treat Williams and Famke Janssen.

The Plot

It’s the maiden voyage of the new cruise ship Argonautica but the festive journey comes to a crashing halt when in the middle of the Pacific Ocean its communication systems collapse, and the ship collides with a gigantic creature.

A team of mercenaries led by Hanover (Wes Studi) are being ferried out to the ship by boat captain John Finnegan (Treat Williams). When the team arrives at the Argonautica the group of hired thugs find an empty ship. There to rob the safe and destroy the boat, the mercenaries meet a handful of passengers, including the ships owner, Simon Canton (Anthony Heald) and thief Trillian St. James (Famke Janssen) that tell them a whale of a tale.

The mercenaries learn that a monster has attacked the ship and killed everyone else. Rather than making away with valuables from the vault, the mercenaries are killed off quickly, with Finnegan and Trillian trying to escape the giant octopus-like creature that is tearing the ship apart. Using the torpedoes brought by Hanover and his team, Finnegan and Trillian escape the ship in time as the vessel explodes, killing the monster on board.

Heading for a nearby island, Finnegan and Trillian are surprised to see Joey (Kevin J. O’Connor) wash up alive from the explosion. Reunited the three are left on a secluded beach when they hear a horrific noise in the jungle.

Cinematic Compliments

I love this film. It has everything that anyone could ever want in a monster movie. Is it the best film on screen? Absolutely not! Deep Rising is not meant to win any Oscars. Roger Ebert placed the movie on his most hated list, and I feel bad for Ebert because he couldn’t find the joy in the movie.

The characters are all bad guys. Finnegan is the best of the bunch, and that is not saying much about the other people. Deep Rising is a film where you don’t feel bad when most of the cast is killed off. The mercenary team includes a young Djimon Hounsou who is killed off in a brilliantly shocking and gory way. You expect to see the tough mercenaries meet a brutal end. What you look for is the banter and dialogue between the cast which makes you laugh. Deep Rising has this banter in multiple places.

Treat Williams is one of the most underrated actors of the past forty years. He is brilliant as Finnegan. Not only does Williams portray an indifferent jerk who has moments of clarity that allows him to do the right thing, but the audience will identify with Finnegan because he is set up to be the good guy. Williams can be tough but smart. He seems like a capable fighter who knows how to survive and harkens back to the 80’s action hero who was always able to face any situation. Finnegan even has a catch phrase ‘Now What?’.

Kevin J. O’Connor is the comic relief as Joey. O’Connor brings humor to serious situations and will make the audience laugh out loud. His line about asking if someone can suddenly get asthma is not only funny, but it’s so unexpected that it makes Joey one of the only characters that the audience will want to see survive.

Famke Janssen is not playing the desirable female lead. She’s just as dangerous as everyone else and, coming off her role in Goldeneye, it's refreshing to see Janssen not be the damsel in distress, a psychotic murderer, or desirable beauty queen. Trillian is a thief, good with a gun, and hard to trust. Famke Janssen makes her character more than a one-dimensional forgettable character.

Cinematic Complaints

If you aren’t a fan of monster movies, then Deep Rising is not for you.

Fun Film Facts

  • Harrison Ford was originally approached about the role of Finnegan. When he turned it down, the budget for the film was decreased.
  • Claire Forlani was originally cast in the role of Trillian St. James. After only a couple of days of filming, she left the set over creative differences with director Stephen Sommers.
  • The movie was originally going to shoot in Los Angeles but the water tank rental needed for filming was going to cost over two hundred thousand dollars.
  • Attempting to save money on production, the film was shot in Vancouver in a specially built water tank, which flooded several blocks and cost over half a million dollars in damage.
  • The film was originally titled Tentacle.
  • The film’s closing scene on an unknown island is not only a wink to King Kong but was also a lead in for a planned future movie update of the giant ape. Production for the film fell apart and led director Sommers on to other projects like The Mummy.

The Golden Popcorn Bucket Award

Deep Rising is so much fun to watch. A blockbuster misfire at the box office, and a critics target for nasty takes, the film had the misfortune of being delayed in post-production and following in the footsteps of another gigantic cruise ship film, Titanic. It felt like Deep Rising was never going to find their audience at the box office.

Time has been kind to the film and it currently has a cult following who recognize the film for all its highlights. To me Deep Rising gets a 3 ½ Golden Popcorn Bucket rating. Yes, the story is silly with some one-dimensional characters, but the lead actors make the movie enjoyable. The climax to the film is amazing, and Treat Williams is perfect as Finnegan. I wish there were more action pics led by Treat Williams.

Coming Attractions

With the upcoming release of WandaVision on Disney+ we look at Touchstone Pictures most famous comic book film, Dick Tracy.

Production Credits

Directed by Stephen Sommers

Produced by Hollywood Pictures

Starring:

  • Treat Williams as John Finnegan
  • Famke Janssen as Trillian St. James
  • Wes Studi as Hanover
  • Anthony Heald as Simon Canton
  • Kevin J. O’Connor as Joey

Release Date: January 30, 1998

Budget: $45 million

Box Office Gross

Domestic: $11,203,026