Deep Blue Sea
directed by Renny Harlin
(Warner Brothers, 1999)

Deep Blue Sea crosses the classic shark movie, Jaws, with elements of Frankenstein.

Dr. Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows) is seeking a cure for Alzheimer's disease using the proteins found in a shark's brain. To increase production, she performs unethical genetic manipulation on the sharks, creating the obvious monsters who will terrorize her and the other characters for the rest of the film. The flaw in the movie's logic, however, is the assumption that increasing a shark's capacity for learning immediately gives you "smart sharks" with the ability to understand physics, electronics and other facets of higher learning without the benefit of any education whatsoever.

OK, let's let that small flaw in logic pass. McAlester is trapped in a flooded underwater laboratory with the rest of her team when a trio of supersharks escape and go looking for lunch. The rest of the movie is filled primarily with desperate attempts to escape from the lab punctuated with occasional shark snacks.

On the surface, Deep Blue Sea is a fair successor to Jaws. The action is intense enough to keep the viewer guessing, and it's abrupt enough to keep your eyes riveted to the screen. However, logic fails often along the way (for instance, when considering the ease with which the sharks navigate the shallow waters of the lab) and the deaths -- including the alleged shocker in the penultimate scene -- were fairly predictable.

Worse yet, many of the computer-generated scenes of finny death were cartoon-like and therefore unconvincing. On the plus side, Burrows strips down to her undies.

Samuel L. Jackson seems a little wasted as financier Russell Franklin, and much of his dialogue seems clipped. The others in the cast -- the chef Preacher (LL Cool J), Janice Higgins (Jacqueline McKenzie), Tom Scoggins (Michael Rapaport), Jim Whitlock (Stellan SkarsgŒrd), Brenda Kerns (Aida Turturro) and shark wrangler Carter Blake (Thomas Jane) -- are fine to the extent that we feel badly as most of them die, but we never really care much about any of them. Blake in particular is just a bit too heroic and fearless, and his lung capacity seems a tad extreme.

Deep Blue Sea is a fine way to pass an evening if you're looking for a surface-level thriller. Just don't expect much depth.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 2 February 2002

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