Deep Blue Sea (1999)

reviewed by
Greg King

DEEP BLUE SEA (M). (Warner Bros/Village Roadshow) Director: Renny Harlin Stars: Thomas Jane, Saffron Burrows, Samuel L Jackson, L L Cool J, Michael Rapaport, Jacqueline McKenzie, Stellan Skarsgard, Aida Turturro, Ronny Cox (uncredited) Running time: 105 minutes.

Jaws with attitude! There hasn't been a decent shark adventure since the original Jaws (1975), although there have been plenty of imitations and cheap rip-offs. Just when we thought it was safe to venture back into the water, along comes Deep Blue Sea, an undeniably trashy but entertaining big budget B-grade thriller from director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, The Long Kiss Goodnight, etc). Deep Blue Sea hits our screens in the wake of other disappointing water-bound stinkers, like Kevin Costner's awful Waterworld and the dire Sphere, but this one works a treat. If nothing else, this enjoyable film will turn a number of people away from the beach this summer.

Scientists at Aquatica, an ocean-based research station that resembles something left over from the disastrous Waterworld, have been tampering with Mako sharks in order to find a cure for degenerative brain diseases, such as Alzheimer's. As a result their genetic tampering has turned a natural killing machine into a highly intelligent, dangerous predator with a thirst for blood. When a savage tropical storm hits Aquatica and wrecks the place, the labs are waterlogged and the sharks get free. They begin hunting the scientists as they desperately try to make their way to the surface.

The international cast includes Thomas Jane (who, from a distance, bears a vague resemblance to Kevin Costner), Aussie actress Jacqueline McKenzie (Angel Baby), Michael Rapaport, Saffron Burrows (currently in Wing Commander, etc), rapper L L Cool J (who adds some humour to the film), and the very busy Samuel L Jackson. Half the fun lies in working out which of these stars will become shark food and who will survive.

The film was shot in the same huge tanks created for Titanic, and delivers plenty of underwater action. Special effects technology and computer generated imaging have advanced since Spielberg's day, allowing Harlin and his special effects crew to create thoroughly menacing sharks that move through the water with awesome fluidity. Harlin is a deft hand at spectacular action sequences, and this fast paced film certainly delivers plenty of thrills.

Deep Blue Sea deftly combines elements of Jaws, Jurassic Park and The Poseidon Adventure, as well as many of the clichés of the popular disaster movie. It is also reminiscent of the series of films from the mid-'70's in which nature sought revenge on man for meddling with the environment. Many of those films took themselves far too seriously, and consequently they were pretty silly. However, the makers of Deep Blue Sea seem aware of its inherent silliness, and the film is all the better for it. The film is cliché- ridden, with lots of unintentionally corny and banal dialogue, but this all somehow adds to the enjoyment of the whole thing. ***1/2 greg king

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