Depth Charge

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Airdate: 10 p.m., Monday, Sept. 1 (Spike)

When you have Eric Roberts and Jason Gedrick starring in an original action thriller for guys network Spike, the fear going in is that there won't be much left to see after all of the scenery gets munched away by the performances.

But the good news -- perhaps even shocking news -- is that the Spike flick "Depth Charge" is not only tolerable but surprisingly not bad. And what's more, the acting doesn't travel over the top much at all. I mean, even Barry Bostwick is pretty convincing as the president of the United States. And Corbin Bernsen is just fine as a submarine commander who likes to speak in clenched-jawed mini-phrases. The genre cliches are fairly multitudinous, but if you're watching a film on Spike on Labor Day evening, that pretty much goes with the territory and in fact feels almost revelatory.

Presented under the "Spike Guy Movies" banner, "Depth Charge" tells the doomsday tale of a rogue officer aboard a nuclear-powered sub named Capt. Krieg (absolutely no relation to Captain Queeg of "The Caine Mutiny" fame), played by Roberts. It happens that Krieg is suffering from a brain tumor and, worse, a major case of disgruntled military-dude syndrome. He launches a nutso scheme to take over the sub in tandem with a group of fellow rogues, threatening to blow Washington to the proverbial smithereens with a nuclear warhead if the prez himself doesn't wire $1 billion into a bank account within 24 hours. As if Washington isn't imploding just fine without this delusional megalomaniac's help.

What the scary Sir Nuke didn't count on was the hunky ship's doctor (a particularly buff Gedrick) turning hero to quash the plan, bounding around the sub and taking guys out one by one. It's major macho stuff.

Sometimes, doc doesn't even bother shooting, content to snap necks with his bare hands. Not only is this an inefficient mass-murder method, it's also a major breech of his Hippocratic Oath. Bernsen, meanwhile, plays the chief of another military sub that's looking to blow the bad guys out of the water. He performs in a fashion that would have made Arnie Becker decidedly proud.

The teleplay from Dennis Pratt hits all of the usual action-flick notes, which is to say the dialogue tends toward pronouncements rather than conversation. We learn all 10 ways for someone to say, "You'll never get away with this!" and all 12 or so approaches to intoning, "Oh yes I will."

Terrence O'Hara's direction does a credible job in bringing a measure of personality to the litany of faceless thug types while at the same time keeping his players from going too broad. This is important when the film is being made for a network where broads, if you'll pardon the expression, aren't all that welcome.

Fortunately, "Depth Charge" piles on more than enough testosterone to keep Spike's guy-centric target sufficiently amped.

Production: Alpine Medien Prods., RHI Entertainment, Larry Levinson Prods., Grand Army Entertainment. Cast: Eric Roberts, Jason Gedrick, Barry Bostwick, Chris Warren, Jr., Corbin Bernsen. Executive producers: Robert Halmi, Jr., Larry Levinson. Producers: Kyle Clark, Stephen Niver. Writer: Dennis Pratt. Director: Terrence O'Hara. Director of photography: Dane Peterson. Production designer: John Zachary. Costume designer: Heather Hershman. Editor: Craig Bassett. Music: Stephen Graziano. Casting: Amy Beth Reece.

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