Judge Gordon Sullivan goes off the deep end, when he sees mediocrity.
This time, it's a little more than just a diver down.
I grew up around the beach and diving, so I found the first installment of Into the Blue rather funny. It seemed like another attempt by Hollywood to sex up another tedious job with guns and naked flesh. Don't get me wrong, searching for stuff underwater can be a tremendously rewarding occupation; however, it's typically engaged in by middle-aged guys who look nothing like Jessica Alba, and a typical day involves a lot more maintenance than it does looking at pretty underwater vistas. Although I don't recall Into the Blue making a huge splash, it was respectable enough for the studio to green-light this direct-to-DVD sequel that shares only a title in common with the first film as far as I can tell. While my esteemed colleague Judge David Johnson found the first film a surprisingly competent little action film, I can make no such claims about the rampant mediocrity of Into the Blue 2: The Reef
Facts of the Case
Early in Into the Blue 2 we learn that some smugglers, under Coast Guard pressure, must drop their precious cargo. This makes their employer quite irate. So irate, in fact, that he kills the driver of the boat. We then cut to a pair of dive bums who make their living taking tourists underwater off the coast of Hawaii. Sebastian (Chris Carmack, The O.C.) and Dani (Laura Vandervoort, Smallville) have dreams of retiring once they find Christopher Columbus's lost treasure ship, but for now they rely on rich couples like Carlton (David Anders, Heroes) and Azra (Marsha Thomason, Lost) who want to rent the boat for a week, ostensibly to look for Columbus' treasure. Sebastian and Dani soon learn that the couple isn't what they seem, even if their initial fears of drug-running are unfounded.
My feeling is that most people who enjoyed Into the Blue were fans of stars Alba or Walker and enjoyed the decent action moments. Those returning to the franchise looking for the same are probably going to be disappointed.
Obviously, Walker and Alba are absent from this outing, and in their place we have Chris Carmack and Laura Vandervoort. Neither is particularly bad, but their characters are tragically underwritten, so there isn't much for the actors to work with. I couldn't quite tell if their characters were totally faceless, or if Carmack and Vandervoort are just that blank. If you enjoyed the first film not for Walker's and Alba's acting talents but for their hard bodies, you probably won't be disappointed by the flesh on display in Into the Blue 2. There's quite a bit of casual nudity (although not enough to really earn the "Unrated" splashed across the DVD cover), and neither Vandervoort nor Carmack shies away from showing as much skin as a bathing suit can throughout most of the film.
Although there's flesh in abundance in The Reef, there's a serious lack of action. The first half of the film is all about setting up the decadent lifestyle that one can lead with no family ties on a tropical island (even if the decadence isn't quite convincing). During this portion of the film we get a bunch of unnecessary subplots including some extra characters, a volleyball rivalry, and some jealously. There are a couple of good underwater scenes, but for the most part it's filler. When the fire finally gets lit under the plot, the film doesn't have the budget to match its intentions. We get Laura Vandervoort pulling a Run, Lola, Run in a hospital gown for an action sequence, and the final "battle" is completely anti-climactic. The film might have been rescued by a cool underwater fight scene, but that was not to be. It's like an episode of Baywatch stretched to 90 minutes.
MGM sent a check disc, so final audiovisual quality will likely be improved. From what I can tell, Into the Blue 2 has a bright, saturated palette that befits the tropic setting. The audio was nothing special, but it conveyed the dialogue and effects without distracting balance issues. For extras, there is a pair of featurettes. One covers the underwater aspects of the production, showing the actors preparing for their diving, while the other is more of a "making of" that provides an overview of the entire production. Neither is very long, but they do offer more young women in swimsuits, which seems to be their main point. There's a music video with footage of the film.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I've been pretty kind to Into the Blue 2 because it doesn't have any pretensions. It does its best to give the audience the nudity and action it wants, even if budgetary constraints keep it from fully realizing those goals. However, it didn't take me long to realize how completely ridiculous it is to use a pair of dive bums to search for anything underwater using only scuba gear. If this operation is half as well funded as the characters imply, it'd have a whole suite of technological marvels that could help locate a pair of metal boxes in less than three hundred feet of water. I know it's lame to bitch about the plot silliness of a movie of this type, but I seriously wish the screenwriters had taken a few extra moments to give the audience a reason for the strictly scuba search.
Into the Blue 2: The Reef is not a horrible movie, but I can, at most, recommend a rental. It's exactly the kind of film you might find on late-night cable, when it won't be bad enough for you to search for another show, but not good enough for you to really enjoy.
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