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Killer Sea Serpents and a Sense of Humor in 'Rising'


With the Titanic, it was a plain old iceberg that did it in. But with "Deep Rising's" brand-new $487.6-million pleasure ship the Argonautica, it's immense sea serpents lurking in the depths of the South China Sea, surfacing to feast on its guests and wrecking the vessel in the process.

Imagine a giant octopus, at least as big as a mansion with many more tentacles than eight. Each tentacle is like the hose of a vacuum cleaner, its opening like a Venus' flytrap surrounded by pincers. These man-eaters are designed to crush you to death and drink your blood--while you're still alive!

"Deep Rising" is shrewdly designed to churn up thrills and chills via first-rate special effects and inventive suspense, yet it invites deliberate laughter. You could call it a monster-from-the deep action-adventure comedy. It aims to divert audiences, and writer-director Stephen Sommers, who combines a light touch with a breakneck pace, hits the mark.

Treat Williams stars as a devil-may-care mercenary with a boat. He's hired by bad-guy Wes Studi, who is involved in a shady scheme with the Argonautica's owner (Anthony Heald), but the serpent attack aborts it.

Sommers piles on the cliffhanging action but never loses sight of his sense of humor. Williams and everyone else play tongue-in-cheek without overdoing it, for Sommers wisely resists camp. There's no condescension to action fans, who may just make "Deep Rising" a hit around the world. It's a technically impressive production, although the destruction of the Argonautica is not in "Titanic's" league--but then what is? And it boasts an appropriately roaring, thundering all-stops-out score by none other than Jerry Goldsmith.

Sommers and his producers have lined up a distinctive international cast that includes Famke Janssen as a poised, elegant jewel thief aboard the Argonautica, and a scene-stealing Kevin J. O'Connor as Williams' wide-eyed, naive mechanic, who has a Jimmy Stewart crack in his voice. The rest of Williams' crew are tough types, played by such versatile actors as England's Jason Flemyng and New Zealand's Cliff Curtis.

The only thing deep about "Deep Rising" is the water, but it's not all wet.

* MPAA rating: R, for sci-fi violence and gore. Times guidelines: The film's violence and gore are standard for the genre, but are too intense for the very young.

'Deep Rising'

Treat Williams: Finnegan

Famke Janssen: Trillian

Anthony Heald: Canton

Kevin J. O'Connor: Joey Pantucci

A Buena Vista release of a Hollywood Pictures presentation. Writer-director Stephen Sommers. Producers Lawrence and John Baldecchi. Executive producer Barry Bernardi. Cinematographer Howard Atherton. Editors Bob Ducsay and John Wright. Costumes Joseph Porro. Music Jerry Goldsmith. Creature design Bob Bottin. Visual effects Dream Quest Images. Additional creature animation and special effects by Industrial Light & Magic. Production designer Holger Gross. Art directors Kevin Ishioka, Sandy Cochrane. Set decorators Rose Marie McSherry, Ann Marie Corbett. Paul Weathered. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.


* In general release throughout Southern California.

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