DOWSE guide to the movies                                                                                         

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the net guide for creative minds

  New Century of Cinema

DOWSE Guide to the Movies
by Tony Lee editor of Pigasus Press

Deep Blue Sea

105 minutes (15)
Director: Renny Harlin
review by Mark Roberts

Take an ex-navy submarine base, and populate it with a team of researchers and their subjects - a handful of fierce Mako sharks (and a doomed one of the Tiger variety). Give the researchers a typical mix of big monster movie human traits: badass; geek; babe; rich guy. Throw in a storm. Reveal that the Makos are genetically modified, making them as smart as the most cunning of movie producers, then beg, borrow and steal from every great monster movie ever made...
 Deep Blue Sea is not a subtle film. It will not challenge your mind. The plot will twist, sure, it's got to, right? But not at any moment will it writhe unexpectedly from your grasp. Your brows may raise in pleasant surprise at the 'death order', so normally constrained by star-size, so thoroughly disrespected here, but you're not going to be hard-pressed to guess where things are heading at any stage in the film. What it will challenge is your nerves. Okay, I've got a bit of a thing about sharks, so that won't have helped, but no monster movie since Aliens has so mercilessly and repeatedly taken shark-sized bites out of my nervous system. Even though you know it's going to happen...
 Films like this tend to live or die on their set pieces, and DBS has its fair share of beautiful choreography, demonstrating some genuine imagination in its makers. The CGI sharks? Well...heh, they're a damn sight better than the original Jaws model was, even if the anthropomorphism occasionally slips towards the comic. Deep Blue Sea succeeds, despite itself. It could so easily have been absolutely awful, but somehow it maintains a distance from the clichés it heaps on top of one another, to emerge as fine entertainment. Take your nervous system. Leave your brain at the door. Enjoy!

Mark Roberts

Deep Blue Sea
101 minutes (15) widescreen 2.35:1 Warner DVD
Director: Renny Harlin
review by Steven Hampton

Saffron Burrows plays an ambitious scientist using shark brains to find a cure for Alzheimer's. Samuel L. Jackson is the wealthy but demanding investor, curious enough about this line of medical research to visit Aquatica, Burrows' oceanic lab with many tons of hi-tech equipment. The techies and support crew are restless, uncertain of their project's future. The GM mutant sharks are smarter than the blinkered scientist believes possible, and to cap it all there's a severe storm moving in on the facility. Into this supposedly unpredictable scenario the writing team and director, Renny Harlin, bring some entirely predictable horror clichés. The talented cast get chewed on or eaten alive by sharks that break security to hunt in flooded corridors, stairwells and even a lift shaft. They attack the cook in his kitchen and the doctor in her bedroom. Every shock moment from decades of seafaring adventure and monster movies is revised - and enhanced - with CG images, although the familiar pecking order of victimisation is cannily subverted with surprising results.
 Terror is diluted in favour of a wholly camp script. LL Cool J (and what sort of name is that for a grown man, anyway?) shoulders much of the blame as the chief comic relief, guilty of overplaying this role and outstaying his welcome, but considerable impact is added to the suspense element simply by deploying sharks as science fictional predators in the manner of Alien. As, unlike the Great White Shark of Jaws, which was just a lazy beast out for easy prey, these strange fish are inhumanly vengeful, turning on their human creators very much in the manner of Frankenstein's monster. In the end, though, whatever can be read into the filmmakers' attempts (sincere or cynical?) to ping our 21st century fears about what lurks in the murky waters of science and capitalism, Deep Blue Sea boils down to little more than an efficient Hollywood thrill ride.
 DVD extras: nibbles and big bites. Scene access in 33 chapters, subtitles in 5 languages, theatrical trailer, info on stars, stills gallery, two 15-minute making-of shows, 5 deleted scenes with/without the director's comments, feature-length commentary by Renny Harlin and Samuel L. Jackson. DVD-ROM includes links to the movie's official website, cast and crew interview clips and online chat-rooms.

Steven Hampton
originally published online in VideoVista #15, June 2000 issue

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