You might double take, but Matty thinks Fred Olen Ray’s slick action caper is more than your usual carbon copy follow-up… Especially when it isn’t even a sequel!
Contrary to the film’s tagline; its alternative international title; and quick to parrot sites such as IMDb and Wikipedia — who, for the record, also incorrectly state that Fred Olen Ray directs under his ‘Ed Raymond’ pseudonym — COUNTER MEASURES (sic) isn’t a sequel to the magnificent Crash Dive (1996). Yes, it’s another built-to-template Royal Oaks actioner set on a nuclear submarine starring Michael Dudikoff (penned, this time, by one of the company’s most enduring ‘sausage makers’, Steve Latshaw). And double yes, it’s another built-to-template Royal Oaks actioner set on a nuclear submarine starring Michael Dudikoff as, again, the only man capable of stopping the terrorists who’ve commandeered said warship from vaporising something or other. However, that’s it. In Counter Measures, Dudikoff is a totally different character — well, insofar as him having a different name and backstory. Appearance and performance-wise, Counter Measures’ Jake Fuller is pretty much identical to Crash Dive’s James Carter. But, hey: still not a sequel.
Visually slick and easily among Ray’s best-looking pictures in terms of colour, design, and composition thanks to Tom Callaway’s bold photography and Steve Ralph’s cleverly repurposed sets (it was shot on the same stages as Royal Oaks’ other sub sagas which, alongside Crash Dive, include Steel Sharks (1997) and Time Under Fire (1997)), Counter Measures is a good movie that falls short of greatness due to a pair of little niggles. The first is that it’s a bit choppy. Editorially, several sequences feel rushed or incomplete, as if they’ve been assembled on a single pass through. The most noticeable is the arrival of Dudikoff’s foil, the shapely Alexander Keith (aka ‘Wendy Schumacher’), who suddenly appears without any kind of introduction. It’s a shame she doesn’t get a decent lead-in as her multifaceted sidekick quickly becomes a real highlight as this enjoyable and incredibly entertaining romp unfolds. Smart, sassy, gorgeous, and tough as nails, Keith’s fabulous turn is quite possibly the crown jewel in the Fugitive Rage (1996) babe’s brief yet brilliant B-movie career.
The second is Counter Measures’ big bad. James Horan tries but, other than his antagonist wanting to form a new Soviet Union — a now chillingly pertinent plot point — the part just isn’t that interesting. Captain Petrov is a beige creation, especially when compared to the infinitely more colourful villains that line Ray’s generally excellent rogue’s gallery (cf. Jay Richardson is the aforementioned Fugitive Rage; Udo Kier in Critical Mass (2001); William Smith and Randy Travis in The Shooter (1997); and every ne’er-do-well that peppers the maestro’s glorious space opera, Star Slammer (1986)).
Nevertheless, there’s a lot to love about Counter Measures. Ray relates Latshaw’s script at a consistently thrilling pace; most of the close-quarters brawling is nicely done; and there’s a wonderful escalating sense of peril once the sub springs a leak and an airstrike starts looming overhead, rendering boring ol’ Petrov and his merry gaggle of goons (Kane Hodder among them) the least of Dudikoff and Keith’s worries.
Released on U.S. video by Avalanche in June ‘98, and also known as — yep — ‘Crash Dive 2’.
USA ● 1998 ● Action ● 93mins
Michael Dudikoff, Alexander Keith, James Horan ● Dir. Fred Olen Ray ● Wri. Steve Latshaw