Into the Blue

Soaking up the sun in the Bahamas, fortune hunters Jared (Paul Walker) and Sam (Jessica Alba) are living paycheck-to-paycheck, with dreams of a better life. When a reckless lawyer friend (Scott Caan) and his extended one-night-stand (Ashley Scott) come down for a visit, a routine diving excursion reveals a long lost pirate wreck, along with a crashed airplane filled with cocaine. With dollar signs in their eyes, the foursome start excavating the wreck, but when the lure of easy money typically associated with drug dealing proves too much, trouble starts to come out from every corner, threatening their find and the treasures that lie within.

While Michael Bay works brilliantly as a figurehead for all that is wrong with Hollywood, let’s face it, there are plenty of directors who are worse. “Into the Blue” marks the return to the screen of director John Stockwell. A filmmaker who finds that comprehensible plots and decent acting often get in the way of his appreciation for glistening flesh, Stockwell dives below with the water adventure “Into the Blue,” and fails to ever come back up for air. After the inanity of “crazy/beautiful” and “Blue Crush,” Stockwell has finally crossed the line into total stupidity.

“Into the Blue” is such a smorgasbord of action, cliches, and bad acting, that it will make your head spin in ways Stockwell wasn’t counting on. To him, this mishmash of “The Deep” and a particularly bad episode of “Miami Vice” presents a wealth of opportunities for suspense and sublime Caribbean scenery. While parts of the film look like outtakes from a PBS documentary on deep sea diving, the rest of the movie is something akin to being caught in a jellyfish’s tentacles, repeatedly stung by Stockwell’s hilariously bad choices as a filmmaker, and his total inability to tell a straightforward story.

While “Blue” starts off simply as a treasure hunt gone wrong, Stockwell and screenwriter Matt Johnson (who, heaven help me, also scripted the 2004 nightmare “Torque”) feel the need to complicate the narrative, and add more and more layers of plot twists and characters, which renders the last 30 minutes of the movie a baffling mess. However, if you’re still paying attention by that point, you’re a better person than I. After swallowing poorly shot plane crashes, cocaine stashes, pirate legends, and Scott Caan doing everything he can to appear funny (consistently failing), when the film gets around to introducing a ludicrous British drug lord (James Frain) about an hour in, I was already mentally planning the next day’s grocery list. But the filmmakers don’t stop there. No, the picture also throws shark attacks, car chases, model Tyson Beckford trying to act like an island native, and shoot-outs both over and under the surface of the water in the mix as well. All of this is accompanied by a score (by Paul Haslinger) that resembles a mix of a Scorpions soundcheck with Casio leftovers from a “Fear Factor” session. “Blue” would be exhausting to watch if it knew how to tie all the flotsam and jetsam together into one solid ride, but Stockwell has no idea, which leaves this incredibly busy film an aching bore.

Stockwell doesn’t do himself any favors with his casting either. The group of young actors assembled here have clearly been hired for their bodies, not their acting chops. If “Blue” wasn’t enough of a chore of sit through, Paul Walker’s Spicoliesque delivery, Scott Caan’s exasperating bravura, Ashley Scott’s blank stares, and Jessica Alba’s unconditional earnestness only make the headache throb harder. Josh Brolin also shows up periodically, and you can tell he took the job for the semi-vacation. One almost feels bad for Stockwell, forced to deal with such mediocre-to-awful actors. Then along comes a shot that is pointed right up Scott’s hindquarters while she sunbathes, and the realization that, yes, this disaster of the movie solely rests on Stockwell’s shoulders.

If there’s one positive to be found in this heap, it would have to be that John Stockwell has finally crossed over to flat-out pervert. Sure, watching his camera glide lovingly, capturing the beauty of young bodies in his earlier films was disturbing enough, but “Blue” marks the first time Stockwell has stopped his film dead to do it. Sticking his camera in the crotches of his female leads, and begging all the guys (and Scott) in the film to perform every scene shirtless, “Blue” goes to ridiculous lengths to make sure skin is front and center. I think Stockwell is mistaking gratuitous coverage for sensuality, and he joins Victor Salva and Larry Clark in the race for ickiest director working today.

This is typically the part where I would say that “Blue” is “all wet,” and, to be fair, the film is. Traditionally, filmmakers of lower quality tend to learn from their mistakes; yet, John Stockwell keeps getting worse, making “Into the Blue” the film that reveals his past blunders were no fluke.

Rating: F