Tom Berenger is one of those guys that can be pretty awesome in just about any genre. Whether he’s in a war film (like Platoon), or a sports comedy (like Major League), or an action classic (like The Substitute), the man kicks ass in just about everything he does. Because of his versatility and his ass kicking credentials, Tom Berenger is a Legend of the Silver Screen.
Our first Berenger flick is…
SEA SNAKES (2009) **
Sea Snakes is a Snakes on a Plane rip-off directed by Fred Olen Ray and starring Luke Perry and Tom Berenger. If that doesn’t scream “Must See” I don’t know what does. I still wish they would’ve called it “Snakes on a Sub” and got it over with though.
Perry stars as a sub captain taking an old submarine on its farewell voyage to be decommissioned. Before completing his mission, Luke gets orders to rescue some scientists doing research on snakes. Predictably, the scientists bring the snakes aboard. Predictably, the snakes get loose. Predictably, the snakes start biting the crew. Predictably, Perry has to join up with the hot scientist (Krista Allen) to kill the snakes.
If you can’t already tell, the word that best describes Sea Snakes is predictable. That’s probably the worst thing I can say about it. That and the flick goes through the motions without ever really delivering the goods. Still, it remains watchable throughout and it’s not boring or anything.
Let me put it this way, if you’re looking for a thoroughly middle of the road SYFY Channel Movie, Sea Snakes is a pretty accurate mile marker.
Sea Snakes plays kinda like a remake of the old David Janssen TV movie, Fer-de-Lance, which also featured a sub beset by killer snakes. You’d think a director like Fred Olen Ray would have a field day with this kind of premise. Curiously, he plays things straight, which I think might’ve been a mistake. This is definitely one film that could’ve benefitted from his usual tongue in cheek approach.
Likewise, the cast plays things more or less seriously. Perry fares better than you’d expect as the tight-lipped sub captain. And Allen looks pretty sexy as the scientist lady; although I wish Ray had given her more to do than give Perry speeches about snake bites. (READ: Take a shower.)
Tom Berenger does a solid job here as Perry’s superior. Most aging, past their prime actors appearing in Fred Olen Ray movies go through the motions with a “So my career’s come to this…” look on their face. Not Berenger. He gives the role more dignity than was needed, which is the hallmark of a Legend of the Silver Screen. Sadly, he spends most of his scenes in an office or a boardroom and never does battle with the snakes.
Ray also directed another killer snake movie called Venomous which starred Treat Williams, who took over for Berenger in the Substitute sequels.
AKA: Silent Venom.
Our next film starring Berenger is…
TRUE BLUE (2001) **
Tom Berenger stars as a disheveled cop with a history of fucking up. After his latest fuck-up he’s assigned to a seemingly dead end case that revolves around a severed hand. Turns out the hand belongs to the mayor’s assistant. Berenger does some digging and uncovers a scheme involving S & M clubs, Chinese gangs, and pedophiles. He also befriends the victim’s roommate (Lori Heuring) and eventually they’re having a full-blown affair. This naturally complicates the investigation, especially considering that she knows far more than she lets on.
True Blue is a by the book detective flick; no more, no less. It plays like an R rated version of Law and Order or something. It starts off OK enough I guess, but the ending is thoroughly ridiculous as the movie piles on twist after twist in its last reel. For a flick so light on plot to begin with, the ending is especially discombobulating as person after person appear out of the shadows to sinisterly tell Berenger how and why they’re connected to the plot.
The only thing saving True Blue from being utterly forgettable is the performance by Tom Berenger. He does what he can to keep the movie afloat, but the flick ultimately sinks itself during its convoluted finale. It’s surely a sign of Legendary status when someone like Berenger can still manage to make dreck like this watchable.
The supporting cast is decent all around. Pamela (Mafia!) Gidley plays Berenger’s partner who kinda has the hots for him and gets jealous when he starts getting close to Heuring. And Heuring isn’t bad, but they cut away during her love scene before you get to see her good side (if you know what I mean). And I enjoyed seeing Soon Tek Oh as Berenger’s on the street informant.
Overall, True Blue is truly run of the mill.
AKA: Cold Crime.
And our final Berenger movie is…
RUSTLERS’ RHAPSODY (1985) ** ½
The makers of Police Academy tried to bring back the western with this silly, but agreeable Airplane style spoof of the John Wayne westerns from the 30’s. The problem was that modern audiences didn’t give a flip about those old oaters, so it was a flop. I still kinda dig it though.
Tom Berenger stars as a goodie two shoes hero in a white hat named Rex. He rides into town and learns the local cattle baron (Andy Griffith) has been causing trouble with the locals. In between romancing (and I use that term very loosely because Rex is a “good guy”) two women (Sela Ward and Marilu Henner), Rex finds time to get himself a new sidekick (G.W. Bailey from Police Academy). Together, they set out to take down the bad guy.
Rustlers’ Rhapsody starts off with a great black and white recreation of an old 30’s western. Director Hugh Wilson got everything just right here. From the camera placement to the shot composition, everything about the opening sequence looks authentic. Then the narrator says, “I wonder what one of these movies would look like today?” and things switch over to color.
The best thing about the movie is the way it plays up the conventions of B westerns. For example, Rex knows everything going on because all western towns are the same. (If you’ve seen your share of westerns from the 30’s, you know it’s true.) I also liked the way that he threatened to shoot everyone in the hand. Heck, the flick even goes so far as to explain the reason why the bad guys can never shoot the good guys. (“There’s a definite wind factor!”)
Rustlers’ Rhapsody is not entirely successful, but it’s a decent stab at parodying the genre. (Three Amigos did it a lot better.) The thing is, the jokes are more clever than laugh out loud funny. And if you aren’t a fan of the old westerns, I’m not sure you’ll even get half the jokes. It also runs out of steam long before the final shootout.
Having said that, I still kinda liked it. Berenger equips himself nicely. He shows a flair for comedy that more or less went untapped throughout his career. He also gets the best line of the movie when he tells his sidekick, “I’m sorry, I ride alone. My theme song even says so!”
Next week’s Legend of the Silver Screen: Kevin Costner.