The Deep is a movie long on scenes of Nick Nolte and Robert Shaw vacuuming up the ocean floor in search of Spanish treasure and short on anything resembling excitement. The movie has also been “credited” with starting the wet T-shirt craze with scenes of Jacqueline Bisset diving around in a clingy top, but once she gets relegated to bored girlfriend status and just hangs out on the boat while Nick and Robert battle Lou Gossett and a big eel, the movie loses whatever momentum it had.
Nolte and Bisset play a dumb couple down in Bermuda on some sort of adventure vacation where they go diving around wrecks in the hopes of finding some valuable doodads or other. After finding one such knick knack, they’re approached by Lou who claims to be a bottle collector and is interested in buying this piece of glass they found.
Guess what? Lou isn’t really a bottle collector at all! He’s really a Haitian thug interested in all the morphine ampules that are still down at the wreck where Nolte and Bisset found their bit of glass.
And guess what else? He’ll stop at nothing to get his hands on them! And by stopping at nothing, I mean, he’ll periodically terrorize Nick and Jackie, but won’t actually bother going down to the wreck to get them himself until the very end of the movie when a climax is needed!
The first run-in that Nick and Jackie have with Cloche (Gossett) where he reveals that he isn’t really a mild mannered bottle collector, but is the movie’s villain, is when he has them run off the road, kidnapped, and searched for the bottle. For some reason, Cloche is concerned that Jackie might have hidden it in her bikini top and makes her take that off, but doesn’t have the same worries about Nick.
In any case, I’m desperately trying to remember why exactly we were stopping at nothing to get our hands on whatever it was those two found. If he’s after the morphine or whatever else is down with the wreck, he could just go down there himself and haul all that junk up or follow our couple out to the site when they go back for more treasure if he’s unsure of the location. And if he’s just after the bottle or whatever they have in their possession, well, that’s just really dumb to be going through all that trouble for one piece of sea junk.
He’s no bigger dummy than either Nick or Jackie though. After they are almost killed by this moron, do they boogie off the island back to the safety of the United States? Nah. They go and visit the local treasure hunting celebrity Romer Treece (Shaw) for his help.
Thus begins the long and mostly boring partnership between the three of them that sees them sitting around Romer’s house babbling endlessly about old shipping manifests, sunken Spanish fleets, and just why in the world a French tobacco ship would be full of Spanish treasure.
Nolte’s character comes off as particularly lunkheaded when Romer talks about all this treasure hunting stuff and how they need proof that what they found came from an actual wreck and that the proof is called “provenance” in salvage lingo. This is Nolte’s cue to bellow mindlessly about how they need their provenance or how they found their provenance or how he almost had their provenance with all the conviction of a mynah bird.
More dull-wittedness from Nick and Jackie ensue after Jackie gets attacked by some of Cloche’s voodoo-oriented henchman while Nick and Romer are out on a secret midnight dive. Jackie gets a severed chicken foot dipped in blood dragged across her stomach and this leaves her feeling understandably violated. Still, it’s hard not to giggle when she wails in anguished tones, “I was painted!” I half expected Nick to turn to Romer and asked if that counted as their provenance.
Jackie was so traumatized by this that she and Nick left the island as soon as they reported this incident to the police and the movie ended. Oh wait, that’s what normal people would have done. Nick and Jackie actually just moved in with Romer and intensified their search for the sunken Spanish treasure.
Nothing unexpected happens in The Deep and while you do get a few explosions and some fight scenes, there isn’t a whole lot of drama since the movie never seemed to be about much of anything. The film tried to make Cloche seem like a big threat, but he was relegated to the background after the whole chicken foot episode and it was left in the feeble hands of drunken doublecrosser Eli Wallach’s character to skulk around villainously for the second half of the movie.
The movie is filled alternately with boring scenes of Romer yakking about the history of the wreck they’re searching and pretty, but also boring scenes, of Romer, Nick, and Jackie swimming around in the ocean with their big sea vacuum. The treasure isn’t very impressive, Cloche only seems to grudgingly get in the water for the obligatory final fight at the end of things, and Nolte comes off as an over-eager dummy that Jackie nails squarely on the head when she says that all his adventures ever end up getting him is T-Shirts. (He was wearing a Mt. Everest T-shirt at the time.)
Soggy and quite waterlogged at over two hours, The Deep sinks in a hurry and fails to yield any goodies that are worth bringing back from the briny depths.
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