Courtesy Photo
* stars 105 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Wednesday, July 28, 1999
Directed by Renny Harlin

Starring Saffron Burrows, Thomas Jane, Samuel L. Jackson, LL Cool J,Jacqueline McKenzie, Michael Rapaport & Stellan Skarsgard


Can a shark movie ever be as scary on the small screen? Of course not. And this forula folly has nothing to offer but one or two half-hearted jolts and an interesting pecking order for shark food stars. Rent "Jaws" instead, and "go home happy."

   VIDEO RELEASE: 12/7/99

Renny Harlin:
"The Long Kiss Goodnight" (1996)
"Cutthroat Island" (1995)

Saffron Burrows:
"Wing Commander" (1999)
"The Matchmaker" (1997)

Thomas Jane:
"Boogie Nights" (1997)
"Face/Off" (1997)

Samuel L. Jackson:
"The Red Violin" (1999)
"Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace" (1999)
"The Negotiator" (1998)
"Jackie Brown" (1997)
"187" (1997)
"The Long Kiss Goodnight" (1996)
"A Time to Kill" (1996)
"Die Hard: With a Vengeance" (1995)

LL Cool J:
"Halloween: H20" (1998)

Michael Rapaport:
"Palmetto" (1998)
"Copland" (1997)
"Kicked in the Head" (1997)
"The Pallbearer" (1996)

Stellan Skarsgard:
"Ronin" (1998)
"Good Will Hunting" (1997)
"Amistad" (1997)
"Breaking the Waves" (1996)

Smart sharks make fast food of disposable players in formulaic 'Deep Blue Sea'

By Rob Blackwelder

I can just see the lowest common denominator-minded suits at Warner Bros. salivating over the pitch for "Deep Blue Sea."

"Hey everybody," someone said, "why don't we combine 'Jaws,' 'Alien,' 'The Abyss' and 'Titanic' into some kind of mindless summer blockbuster?" The suits licked their chops. This thing is going to make so much money, they thought.

What I would give to live in a world without these guys. But this isn't that world, so here comes "Deep Blue Sea," something akin to "Jaws 4" on steroids.

A step up in budget and a step down in originality from your pure formula, B-grade, monster movie, it's about genetically engineered (and computer-rendered), high-IQ sharks attacking the ocean-bound research facility that created them and making chum of the nubile, post-feminist scientists (Saffron Burrows, Jacqueline McKenzie) and their wise-cracking, tough guys grunts (Thomas Jane, Michael Rapaport, LL Cool J).

For the sake of perspective, I should level with you -- I really didn't want to see this movie. But even as the lights were going down, I still held out a little hope that "Deep Blue Sea" might surprise me. After all, Samuel L. Jackson is in it -- playing the survivalist CEO of the pharmaceutical company funding this shark research gone wrong -- and I have faith in that man. Besides, I told myself, he must have learned his lesson about bad underwater movies after "Sphere," right?

But then came the opening scene of teenagers making out on a catamaran when -- you guessed it -- they're attacked by a shark.

Director Renny Harlin ("Cutthroat Island," "The Long Kiss Goodnight") could have at least done us the courtesy of saving the shopworn cliches until after the opening credits.

The movie then takes a breather to introduce a little superfluous plot. Burrows ("The Loss of Sexual Innocence," "Wing Commander") is trying to cure Alzheimer's disease, and somehow this has something to do with increasing the size of sharks' brains -- which goes against some code of ethics everyone else in the cast keeps babbling about. When her finny test subjects go Mensa, they start eating people for no adequately explored reason.

And, of course, there's a hurricane. Otherwise it would be too easy to get in a boat and leave.

Pathetically predictable from scene one -- except, perhaps, for the order in which our stars become bloody fish food -- "Deep Blue Sea" has such paint by numbers plot advancement that experienced movie goers will be able to predict exactly when Burrows will have to strip down to her undies in order to save her life. They'll also recognize that these "smart" sharks are going to have to start acting pretty stupid in order for the story to resolve, which they do, right on cue.

"Deep Blue Sea" isn't a movie made for people like me. It's made for folks who succumb easily to the power of suggestion, will happily cheer when they're programmed to and recommend a scary flicks to their friends as "cool, dude!" as long as it made them bolt upright a couple times and had passably convincing effects, which this one does.

I will say this, though: Samuel L. Jackson had his reasons for taking a part in this movie. He likes variety and he likes to have fun with his. He obviously thought it would be fun to be in a shark movie, (small spoiler warning!) especially in one where something unexpected might happen to him earlier than people might think.

But if you're not Samuel L. Jackson and you're not the "cool, dude!" type, I recommend you steer well clear of "Deep Blue Sea."


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