There’s no moral or higher purpose to be gleaned from John Barr’s campy thriller Dangerous Waters. Most of the dopiness feels unintentional; intermittently, I felt as if the filmmaker were aware of the hilarity and nonsensical progression of writer Mark Jackson’s plot. While it’s solidly produced from a technical standpoint, and the lead does her best to sell the most outrageous scenarios, the end result feels undercooked.
Young Rose (Odeya Rush) embarks on vacation with her mom, Alma (Saffron Burrows), wherein they join Alma’s new suitor, the wealthy Derek (Eric Dane), on a month-long yacht trip across the ocean. Alma is all over the guy. Understandably, Rose remains grossed out and skeptical, even after Derek teaches her how to use the assault rifle she’s discovered on the boat. That’s when the plot kicks into high gear. Minor spoiler alerts follow.
Some pirate-looking thugs come slamming into their yacht, looking for something. While Rose hides, they kill her mom and injure Derek. After a brief while of panic and grief (“We’re f****d!” Derek bellows at one point), they stumble upon an island. That’s when Derek decides to reveal his true colors – in a hilariously sleazy speech (“But then I saw that you were hot too, so… win-win!”)
A short game of cat-and-mouse ensues. Rose ends up stranded on a raft, just to be picked up by sex-and-drug-trafficking pirates led by a sleazy captain (Ray Liotta). She takes matters into her own hands, at first seducing the leader and then unleashing hell on the crew. The film’s last poignant line almost imbues it with some sort of meaning, key word here being “almost”.
“…takes matters into her own hands, at first seducing the leader, and then unleashing hell on the crew…”
Ridiculous moments pile up fast. Alma goes plummeting into the ocean for no apparent reason. Derek survives a fall from a giant cliff straight onto solid ground without a concussion. Rose evolves from girl-next-door to badass action star with years of tactical weapon training within minutes (the baddies, of course, all aim like they’re cross-eyed). And the dialogue! I’m talking line after line of bad movie gold.
When Rose comes on to the captain, she says, “This ship is so much bigger than the one I was on… What’s that joystick do?” She proceeds to ask him if he has “the ointment” for her fresh flesh wounds. “Yeah,” Ray Liotta says with a straight face, may he rest in peace, “I have the ointment. Did you wash your cut? Did you use hydrogen peroxide? Do you want me to take care of you?” Shudder.
Odeya Rush struggles to sell it. It’s by no means her fault – if her character trajectory were more cohesively structured, she could be entirely believable as a young woman who’s had enough. Being in the same boat as her dead, decaying mother doesn’t seem to bother her so much, for example – but then she fully inhabits her character when it comes to saving a ship full of trafficked girls. The rest of the cast hams it up, especially Dane, who enunciates each line with utmost fervor.
There’s really no point to it all – just nonsensical, guilty-pleasure thrills that don’t amount to much. With a bit more effort, perhaps Barr could’ve strung these sequences together more elegantly or gone in the other, even campier direction. Lovers of B-flicks may find these waters suitably dangerous, but I found them somewhat cold and unwelcoming.
"…the end result feels undercooked..."