Harlin’s film embraces its ludicrous set-up and B-movie nonsense from the start. Dedicated (and more than a little ruthless herself) scientist Dr Susan McCallister (Saffron Burrows) has bred these sharks to help with her obsessive dreams of curing Alzheimers. With millionaire funder Russell Franklin (Samuel L Jackson) flying into spend the weekend at the lab – with a skeleton crew on board – of course its time to run the final test. Can shark wrangler Carter Blake (Thomas Jane) help lead everyone to safety? Well no not everyone… it’s a monster flick after all.
There isn’t anything particularly surprising in Deep Blue Sea – other than one genuinely well-done shock death, which defies your expectations of which characters are the most important – but there are some decent jumps. Some nice little moments of action. A few good gags as sharks prowl through the base picking off the expected victims, while other characters use their wits and a bit of luck to take out the toothy opponents (even an oven gets employed as a weapon). But it’s quite predictable. And I predict that, if you are in the right mood, you might enjoy it.
The dialogue is unimaginative. Most of the acting is pretty wooden (Skarsgård in particular looks like a man yawning his way to a pay cheque) and the characters have clearly been scribbled on post-it notes. Harlin’s direction has a few playful moments, but there’s nothing special about it. You could pretty much predict where the film is going to go – and have a bit of fun spotting its various influences. But I think the film knows you are going to laugh at it. After all, mega sharks? Come on!
At the centre of this is the chemistry free line-up of Burrows and Jane. I feel a bit sorry for Burrows here. Her character is written as an all-consuming obsessive – she also is responsible for everything that happens – and, partly thanks to Burrows barely-concealed disdain for the whole thing, she never comes across as sufficiently guilty or apologetic. Test audiences watching the film reacted so negatively to the character – and you can’t blame them – that Harlin recut the film to make her more of the villain (not quite as much as the sharks, but up there).
A ‘romance’ with Jane hit the cutting room floor – although there are still several scenes where its DNA is readily apparent – just as well really as the actors are chemistry free. Jane in fact has more chemistry with LL Cool J (easily the films MVP as a charmingly offbeat, born-again cook) and the film works best when this bromance is at the fore.
Oh that, and when the sharks at the heart of it. The characters are so non-descript their fates will largely provoke laughter, but as a piece of popcorn rubbish Deep Blue Sea could be a lot worse. Sure it’s got no originality or real expertise about it all, with everyone chucking one in for the money, but its good fun. After all, who doesn’t love a vengeful super-smart shark eh?