(Welcome to DTV Descent, a series that explores the weird and wild world of direct-to-video sequels to theatrically released movies. This week’s entry goes looking for fun in the sun in the form of skin, murder, and sunken treasure.)

It’s usually hit films that earn the pleasure of direct to video sequels, but sometimes a movie that failed at the box-office proves too tempting a marketing opportunity to pass by. Such is the case with 2005’s Into the Blue and its 2009 DTV sequel, Into the Blue 2: The Reef.

These DTV follow-ups typically take a while to show up on virtual shelves, but the four-year span between films here is a relatively quick turnaround. You might assume that’s because the folks at MGM knew they had a hot property, but as mentioned, the original sank fairly quickly in theaters. So maybe they had a fantastic script that simply had to get made sooner rather than later? Don’t be so naive.

No, there’s no artistic or altruistic motive behind this sequel in name only, but we’re still going to give it a fair shot. Keep reading for a look at the DTV sequel to Into the Blue. Is it worth a watch? Don’t hold your breath…

The Beginning

Jared (Paul Walker) and Sam (Jessica Alba) are pretty people living in an even prettier place, but while the Bahamas offer endless beauty the opportunities for financial success are harder to come by. The couple’s dream of discovering a sunken treasure has been on the back-burner for years, but that changes when a dive with friends reveals the possibility of a long lost ship and the actuality of a crashed plane filled with cocaine bricks. The pull of easy money and danger soon takes hold leaving the young couple fighting for their lives and future.

Their love for each other isn’t in question, but their taste in friends leaves something to be desired. Their college buddy Bryce (Scott Caan) and his new girlfriend are swayed by desperation and greed, a competing treasure hunter (James Brolin) threatens to steal the booty from under their noses, and murderous drug dealers are prepared to kill anyone and everyone to get their white gold back. There’s no way out, and with only their wits, ocean knowledge, and perfectly chiseled bodies at their disposal, Jared and Sam realize their only hope for survival is to go… into the blue. (Nailed it.)

The DTV Plot

Sebastian and Dani are young, in love, and working dead-end tourism jobs in Hawaii that aren’t bringing them any closer to their dream of discovering a wreck, salvaging its treasures, and sailing off into the sunset. Their luck appears to change, though, when a wealthy couple hires them to help search for a legendary sunken ship rumored to be off the island’s coast. Carlton and Azra are rich but friendly, and soon the foursome actually discovers hints of a sunken treasure.

Unfortunately for our heroes, these clients are also criminals looking for something far more specific than old trinkets and gold doubloons — they’re looking for two crates that Carlton was smuggling before they crashed into the sea. What’s inside? Drugs? Guns? Think bigger. That’s right, what you thought was a T&A flick about treasure hunters is now about terrorists trying to recover crates holding pieces of a working nuclear warhead. Or something? Azra wants vengeance for her family and friends back in the Middle East who’ve lost loved ones or their own lives to the collateral damage caused by Western missile strikes, so they’re planning a devastating attack. Too bad they chose to tangle with Sebastian and Dani.

Talent Shift

If you’re wondering why I listed actor names for the first film’s synopsis but neglected to do so for the sequel, well, that probably tells you all you need to know about the shift in talents from one film to the next. As mentioned, Into the Blue stars Walker and Alba in their tanned and toned prime. The pair convince not only as lifelong beachheads but also as a loving couple willing to go to the mat for each other, and the supporting cast is every bit as solid. Caan always excels as an arrogant little prick, Brolin is fantastic as a friendly competitor who may in fact be neither, and Ashley Scott, Tyson Beckford, and James Frain all deliver with characters built on varying degrees of sketchiness. Director John Stockwell has since faded into obscurity, but the film was part of his successful transition from acting (Christine, 1983; My Science Project, 1985) to directing with modest successes like Crazy/Beautiful (2001), Blue Crush (2002), and Turistas (2006). Hell, writer Matt Johnson was hot off 2004’s Torque, so that’s something you now know.

The sequel stars Chris Carmack (Bring It On: Again, 2004; The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations, 2009) and Laura Vandervoort (Ted, 2012; Jigsaw, 2017) as the lead couple, and while neither embarrass themselves they don’t exactly make a compelling or believable case for being a couple or long-time Hawaii residents. To be fair, the latter is less about acting ability and more about Carmack’s occasional farmer’s tan. It’s the behind the camera talents that surprise, though, with a pair of known quantities slumming it in the DTV trenches. Director Stephen Herek’s filmography outshines Stockwell at every turn with movies like Critters (1986), Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989), Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead (1991), The Mighty Ducks (1992), The Three Musketeers (1993), and Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995) to his name. What?! Writer Mitchell Kapner isn’t quite as prolific, but he did pen The Whole Nine Yards (2000), Romeo Must Die (2000), and Oz the Great and Powerful (2013). So yeah, I’m not sure who they pissed off to end up with this gig.

How the Sequel Respects the Original

The first film ends with a quote saying “the world’s oceans hold over six billion dollars worth of treasure… still waiting to be found.” And the sequel opens with the same damn quote. If that’s not respect I don’t know what is, but as evidenced by the synopses above it also follows a similar setup with a couple, their obnoxious friends, and a hunt for treasure that turns deadly. The theme is arguably the same too as we’re introduced to good people who refuse to give up on their dreams or on each other, so that’s nice I guess.

How the Sequel Shits on the Original

Oh boy, where to start. First, let me say that for my money, Into the Blue is a legitimately entertaining thriller and you can leave your hate at the door. Pretty people, prettier scenery, and a third act that delivers some terrific action, stunts, and grisly deaths. Is it a loose, uncredited remake of 1977’s The Deep? Maybe, but it’s also attractive as hell and a lot of fun.

The original is a PG-13 flick without nudity, and it’s still ridiculously sexy. The sequel released unrated, features out-of-place topless shenanigans, and can’t even raise your heart-rate. It’s a flat experience (outside of the aforementioned topless scenes) that the filmmakers attempt to liven up with split screens and beach montages showing real volleyball players playing volleyball with editing so choppy as to make their authenticity irrelevant. Even worse, the film is the feature debut of The Hills alum and life-sucking screen presence Audrina Partridge. Why? No clue, but she pops up twice to berate her boyfriend for being a dick, and the second time sees the scene turn into some weird, sped-up fever dream  from the guy’s perspective. Again, why? These “characters” have nothing to do with anything, but you will want them dead all the same.

The DTV sequel’s biggest sin, though, is its lack of anything resembling a believable setting. I’m down with beach bums saving the world from nuke-toting terrorists, but while Stockwell’s film feels authentic and lived in with its salvage boats, background players, and underwater sequences the sequel spends maybe ten minutes under the goddamn water. Even then it never feels like we’re more than twenty feet down — hell, those elusive and hard to find crates are sitting just below the surface on a clean ocean bed making them extremely visible from above. Our treasure-hunting dive-masters all use regular trawlers and yachts rather than salvage crafts suggesting the filmmakers just rented whatever was cheapest at the time. I already mentioned it, but I’m going to repeat myself and point out that the vast majority of the film takes place out of the water. There’s a chunk of it involving bad guys holding people prisoner on their boat, and the boat is docked in a busy marina the whole time! The subtitle is The Reef, and we see maybe thirty seconds of a reef!

The action scenes are horribly chopped and dull, we don’t care about the protagonists, and a weird effort is made to suggest Azra is this mythical killer destined for her own spinoff or sequel — seriously, after her big plan crumbles we follow her to some new locale where she murders the financier and then literally fades into the mist. What is happening?!

Conclusion

Into the Blue: The Reef is bland garbage, and yet… there’s one scene that is absolute perfection, and I’m going to share it with you. After our heroes have been caught, both Sebastian and Dani are held at gunpoint at night on a yacht out in the ocean while the terrorists offer up a monologue on their plans. Dani turns to Sebastian, says “I love you,” and then dives into the water. She abandons the love of her life. She leaves her boyfriend to die. She chooses the slimmest of survival odds apart from her man. They shoot into the water and ride away, but she survives only to wind up in the hospital the next morning in a coma with severe hypothermia. What was the plan there?! Because seriously, Jessica Alba never would have bailed on Paul Walker like that.

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