Bad Movies I Love #7: Deep Blue Sea

Warning! Here be spoilers.

A recurring themes in the bad movies I like is people getting munched in the water by nasty critters, following on from Piranha 3D and Anaconda comes this gem of bad moviemaking.

dbs pos

The plot is pretty simple and familiar to the creature feature genre- a bunch of scientists mess about with some sharks which, predictably backfires and the sharks then chow down on the cast.

In this instance the sharks are key to the research of scientists Susan McAllister (Saffron Burrows) and Jim Whitlock (Stellan Skarsgard) who want to use the shark’s genes to cure human diseases like Alzheimer’s. To do this they’ve made the shark’s brains bigger so they have more cells to study. Hmm, big brained sharks? What could go wrong.

Their boss, Russell Franklin (Samuel L Jackson) comes to inspect the underwater facility. He’s suspicious that genetic tampering may have been going on and while examining one of the sharks Whitlock is severly injured.

dbs shark

The attempted air lift during a rainstorm is struck by tragedy and the sharks strike, bringing down a helicopter and destroying the base which starts to sink. The bigger brains have apparently given the sharks knowledge of helicopters and the architecture of the base.

Led up by ex-smuggler and diving expert Carter Blake (Thomas Jane) a handful of survivors, including Susan and Russell, must work out how to get to the surface and avoid getting gobbled up along the way.

Elsewhere on the station, religious chef Preacher (LL Cool J) has been isolated and has to evade another of the sharks.

What makes this movie so bad/good is that it is how predictable and poorly written it is. Much of the cast may as well be wearing red jumpers because you know they’re not going to make it topside. And aside from offing Jackson halfway through his inspiring speech there are no surprises.

dbs slj

The script has one or two okay lines, but either on the page or in transferring to the screen something has clearly gone wrong. Saffron Burrows’ character is clearly meant to be a driven, icy scientist who we’re supposed to see warm and change over the course of the film and develop a relationship with Jane’s bad boy diver. The problem is, Susan is an entirely unlikable character.

For a scientist she’s pretty dumb, as the big brain sharks thing was clearly a disaster waiting to happen, but mainly because she carries herself with this cold, detached way that senses she feels she’s better than everyone else. This would be an annoying trait if she underwent some massive character development and saw the error of her ways, but really she doesn’t. Sure, she sacrifices herself to help save the day, but this is only because the original ending where she saved the day tested horribly.

Burrows looks great in and out of a wetsuit, and you suspect this is what got her the gig, especially as the film features a scene where she has to strip to her underwear, apparently so she can stand on her wetsuit to avoid electrocution, but clearly so the teenage boys in the audience can have some eye candy.

Saffron Burrows in a fairly gratuitous stripping down scene

Saffron Burrows in a fairly gratuitous stripping down scene

Also, the “relationship” with Carter seems mainly to be based on the fact that they’re the two best looking people in the film. Jane, to his credit, makes a decent action hero lead and his fairly low key performance is oddly likable, but he gets nothing to work with from Burrows, and seems far more comfortable when he’s got scenes with the rest of the cast.

Jane’s an odd actor in that quite a few of the films I’ve seen him in have been kinda lame (I’m looking at you, The Punisher) but he somehow manages to come through them with some dignity.

Carter (Jane) hangs in there (sorry!)

Carter (Jane) hangs in there (sorry!)

The rest of the cast don’t have much to do- Jackson is Jackson, effortlessly cool as the corporate suit who may have survived an earlier avalanche through dastardly deeds.

LL Cool J sails pretty close to irritating as the comic relief character although he just about manages to remain likable, and it’s always nice to see a movie where the black dude isn’t just cannon fodder. LL (Cool? J?) does quite well with his role of the Bible quoting cook and does share good on screen chemistry with Jane, even if at times the “humorous dialogue” is a bit wooden. Still, at least with Cool the performance doesn’t resort to over the top “wackiness” and he has this easy charm that makes you root for him to make the end credits.

dbs llcoolj

The secondary female character, played by Jacqueline McKenzie, is a total wet blanket. She hero worships the unaware Whitlock and then pretty much sticks around to just become hysterical and become a shark snack. Weak secondary females seem to be a trend in genre flicks.

So after all these criticisms why do I love this film? Because it’s ridiculous but extremely fun. The smart sharks stalking them through the corridors and working things out is ludicrous, but it keeps you engaged and there are a handful of choice moments.

Jane, Jackson and J are all on fairly good form, and Michael Rapaport as the geeky friend role does quite well. The women let the side down a bit, but this is mainly due to the cheesy, clunky script, which strives for coolness at times to a laughable extent.

The deaths are pretty good too, especially Jackson’s OTT demise and McKenzie rising up from the water, half eaten by a shark. The effects have dated a bit, but in a way this only adds to the movie’s charm as the clearly computer generated sharks thrash about.

Director Renny Harlin has form for daft action flicks (Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger, Cutthroat Island and The Long Kiss Goodnight) and handles this fairly well, even if it is a bit workmanlike in places.

The thing is this kind of creature flick is always good for a late night watch or evening vegging out, it’s stupid and cheesy, but still fun and it’s flaws actually just become part of it’s appeal. It’s the kind of movie that I can watch over and over again when flicking channels and still enjoy it and have a chuckle, a definite guilty pleasure.

And even the worst aquatic animal movie has one advantage- water is always creepy because you can’t see what’s lurking under it.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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