[Movie Review] Deep Blue Sea

Deep Blue SeaStarring: Samuel L Jackson, Saffron Burrows, Thomas Jane, Jacqueline McKenzie, Michael Rapaport, Stellan Skarsgard
Director: Renny Harlin
Genre: Action
Cert: 15
Released: 1999

At first glance, “Deep Blue Sea” must look like “Jaws 2000”.

A group of scientists are isolated on a research facility in the sea, looking to find a cure to Alzheimer’s. To complete their work, lead researchers, Dr Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows – “Loss of Sexual Innocence”, “The Matchmaker”, “Circle of Friends”, “In the Name of the Father”) and Jim Whitlock (Stellan Skarsgard – “Ronin”, “Amistad”, “Breaking the Waves”), expand the brains of killer sharks who are kept imprisoned in the sea under the facility, kept from the outside world by titanium cages. But expanding the size of these animal’s brains has rather oddly made them smarter and they begin a democratic uprising in a bid to win their freedom and eliminate those who have incarcerated them.

Unfortunately the timing of this revolt couldn’t have come at a worse moment. The team have just obtained the final piece of the puzzle and brain diseases of the present and future look like becoming a thing of the past. In addition, corporate bigwig, Russell Franklin (Samuel L Jackson – “The Negotiator”, “Pulp Fiction”, “Jurrasic Park”), chose this very weekend to visit the facility and he gets thrown into the ensuing chaos.

Despite the obvious shark link, “Deep Blue Sea” is not “Jaws” in any way really. While the 1970s classic deals with a killer shark behaving like the natural predator it is, this movie’s genetically enhanced monsters bear more of a resemblance to the intelligent creatures which paraded around Jurassic Park. As the terrified team try to escape from the killer fish, the sharks are opening doors, backing away from guns, and generally just taking the piss out of their hapless prey.

Renny Harlin would not be noted as a particularly successful director despite the list of recognisable credits in his filmography – “Cliffhanger”, Die Hard 2″, “Cutthroat Island” and “The Long Kiss Goodnight” (could he not found a role for his wife, Geena Davis, in this movie too??). But this is probably the golden star on his copybook as he creates terrific tension in tight spaces by going for the magical “holy sh*t” moments that only killer sharks and serial killers can provide. There are a couple of genuine instances that will make you jump and go ‘wow’. I certainly did anyway. There is one particular storyline twist which will surprise as well, but only because Hollywood has conditioned us not to expect the unexpected.

The effects deserve a pat on the back also. Admittedly the few scenes we see of people getting ripped apart by the sharks are not that convincing as it basically just looks like a doll getting torn asunder. A few close up shots of the decapitation might have enhanced the experience somewhat. But the sharks themselves, which I guess are completely computer generated, looked excellent and close up were very intimidating.

Pretty much ‘blah’ performances by the cast, with the exception of Jackson who added a touch of quality to proceedings. Lead action man, Carter (Jane – “The Thin Red Line”, “Boogie Nights”, “Face/Off”, “The Crow: City of Angels”) was acceptable enough with bulging muscles and his ability to wrestle sharks, but Burrows was mundane and pretty much worthless in such a high profile role. The rest of the ensemble are easily forgotten, but a special mention to the capable LL Cool J (yes, the former rapper) who has some hit-or-miss comedy lines that don’t offend too much.

Watching this on DVD (my first DVD review!) was certainly a thrilling experience. I hooked up my five speaker pro-logic system and took in the atmospheric soundtrack and effects, my 28″ widescreen TV enhancing the visuals. Maybe that made the whole thing more enjoyable than it really was, but I have no complaints. “Deep Blue Sea” was an exciting and well directed action movie which certainly succeeded where “Jurassic Park” failed.

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