Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Deep Blue Sea (1999)

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min.

Release Date: July 28th, 1999 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Renny Harlin Actors: Thomas Jane, Saffron Burrows, Samuel L. Jackson, Jacqueline McKenzie, Michael Rapaport, Stellan Skarsgard, LL Cool J, Erinn Bartlett

 


 

“D

eep Blue Sea” begins with girls dancing in bikinis while sipping wine on a boat – an activity that is suddenly interrupted by a massive shark violently bursting through the floorboards. Unfortunately, aside from the assault itself, it’s an unanticipated, anticlimactic shark attack cold open – perhaps the only one in history. No one is killed or even maimed, thanks to ex-smuggler Carter Blake (Thomas Jane), who is armed with a trusty harpoon gun. A teddy bear prop is the only casualty.

Meanwhile, disillusioned, break-the-law-for-advancements-in-science researcher Dr. Susan McCallister (Saffron Burrows) has been illegally injecting proteins into mako shark brains to produce the cure for Alzheimer’s. “As a side effect, the sharks got smarter.” The president of Chimera Pharmaceuticals, Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson), is about to shut down the research, but humors Susan by personally visiting the hi-tech Aquatica facility to witness the purported progress. Once there, regularly scheduled mayhem ensues.

The gigantic construction is like Alcatraz floating on water, possessing an intriguing extraterrestrial quality. Interior locations and building structures are superbly atmospheric, creating the perfect, claustrophobic, ill-lit, terrifying, underwater setting for a horror film. With stormy weather and a skeleton crew on weekends, the plot is primed for feeding time. After Franklin’s arrival, a surprisingly spectacular action sequence occurs, involving a helicopter crashing into the command tower – knocking out power, communications, and consciousness in an explosive and deadly manner. It’s well designed and high quality – the kind of moment viewers wouldn’t expect from a killer fish flick.

A situation resembling something out of “The Poseidon Adventure” arises – like a disaster epic combined with a shark movie, forcing the survivors to move further down into the establishment to find an escape path. Floods, drowning, slipping down watery hallways, electrocution, seeing dead bodies, and even bolts springing like bullets from extreme water pressure pose cinematic threats. Interestingly, the main villains are relatively small, 12-foot mako sharks, allowing realistic, full-body monstrosities to be manufactured for the close-ups. Sadly, the CG elements are sorely unconvincing and age pitifully.

Despite the questionable fish visuals, several of the shark attack scenes are quite thrilling – utilizing suspense, comedy, nail-biting timing, and slimy animatronic carnivores. One shot, involving Samuel L. Jackson, is so ridiculous and startling that it musters laughs. Based on the editing, dramatic music, and story structure, director Renny Harlin (“Die Hard 2,” “Cutthroat Island”) and his crew appear almost smart enough to have planned the silliness (especially considering the bizarre nature of who lives and dies). To increase the nonsense factor, LL Cool J gets a peculiar, comedy-relief role as the cook, Sherman Dudley, who adds some religious undertones, an oddly self-aware viewpoint of the unbelievable idiocy of the whole situation, the only memorable expletive, and a particularly embarrassing end-credits rap. Although “Deep Blue Sea” is a mindless, unintentionally funny, killer animal B-movie, the first half is nevertheless impressively intense. Too bad it falls apart so quickly.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10

 

 

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