Following close on the heels of Bram Stoker’s Van Helsing, writer/director Steve Lawson is back again with Saltwater: The Battle for Ramree Island. The actual World War II battle of Ramree Island was a rather routine face-off between Japanese and British forces. The only reason it’s more than a footnote in history is the accounts claiming half of the thousand or so Japanese troops stationed there were killed and eaten by saltwater crocodiles.
Those claims have since been largely debunked, but old legends die hard. In any case, the material seems like a great way for Lawson to get back to making enjoyably cheesy films like Killersaurus after a string of dull, talky films like The Haunting of Alcatraz. He can’t mess up a plot like this, can he?
Sgt. Turner (Steven Dolton, Hellriser, Devil’s Tower) and his men have been sent on a top-secret mission to Ramree Island. It’s so top secret that Turner is the only one who knows what it is. That doesn’t sit well with Harris (Glenn Salvage, Soldier of War, Beyond Fury) who’s just been pissed on by a Japanese soldier while hiding in the bush. He’s also not happy that Singh (Jas Steven Singh, The Ashcroft Entity) is with them instead of an “English lad”.
As it turns out they’re there so that Pike (Ryan Harvey) can get photos of various parts of the Japanese base to aid the British attack on the island. Things get complicated when Harris gets tired of hiding and attacks a couple of Japanese soldiers. Their cover blown their only option now is to cross the crocodile-infested mangrove swamps.
Despite not being about the actual battle itself, Saltwater: The Battle for Ramree Island could, and should have been, an enjoyable wartime adventure with the foursome fighting off Japanese soldiers and the crocodiles. But the budget didn’t come close to allowing for that, so we get a lot of scenes of them standing around talking.
To make matters worse, not only are Her Majesty’s Finest a bunch of idiots, Saltwater: The Battle for Ramree Island thinks we are too. A crocodile attacks them in water that barely reaches their knees and they don’t see it coming? Never mind it would be walking rather than swimming in water that shallow. And after that, having apparently learned nothing, they camp right by the water’s edge with predictable results.
Most of the footage of the crocodiles is fairly obvious stock footage with what looks like some kind of an animatronic, or more likely a puppet, head for scenes of someone getting bitten. But with a main cast of four and only three Japanese soldiers to be seen, there aren’t many of those. Maybe that’s why Turner says there are only three hundred enemy troops on the island instead of the much larger number that were actually stationed there. The text at the film’s end does give the right number though, so it’s more likely just careless writing.
To its credit Saltwater: The Battle for Ramree Island does try to make a few points about colonialism and racism. Unfortunately, it tends to be a bit heavy-handed and preachy about it. But, given how talky the whole film is, I suppose that shouldn’t have been a surprise. The film undercutting its own message and humanizing Harris so the film can have a sappy ending was a cliche I knew Lawson couldn’t pass up.
Saltwater: The Battle for Ramree Island is available to stream and on DVD from 4Digital Media. You can check their website or Facebook page for details. Better yet, go watch Crocodile Island or Mega Crocodile. Even Black Water: Abyss would be a better choice than this.