Monday, 2 July 2012


“For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)  it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.” - E. E. Cummings

We watched a Hollywood pulp film at the weekend, which I got when it was on special at the DVD store. I didn’t know any of the actors in it but the jacket had a good synopsis on it and it looked attractive, besides which it reminded me somewhat of the very successful “Jaws” of 1975, remember that classic? In any case it looked like typical Saturday afternoon matinée material, perfect for a rainy, winter’s afternoon with lots of popcorn on hand and the heater going at full blast – which was exactly what the conditions were when we watched it.
The film was Renny Harlin’s 1999 “Deep Blue Sea”, starring Thomas Jane, Saffron Burrows and Samuel L. Jackson. The plot was implausible, but what the heck, it was all set up for thrills and spills and the classic “evil shark vs helpless humans” idea. A comparison with “Jaws” is inevitable and the more recent film comes up lacking in terms plot, characterisation, acting and general look and feel of the film. However, we watched “Deep Blue Sea” with enough interest despite its obvious deficiencies. The main thing to remember if you are watching the film is “don’t take it seriously!”. This movie is not high art, it’s not about character development, it’s not even about a convoluted plot with lots of surprises. It’s just about CGI-generated sharks (very good!) and lots of action and blood and gore and guts. Oh, yes, it’s a typical “dick-flick”.

The plot centres on a group of scientists trying to genetically engineer the brains of sharks to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. Saffron Burrows is the lead scientist, who is very passionate about her research – so passionate in fact, that she becomes unethical in the way she conducts it and she breaks important rules about genetic engineering. The result is the creation of a trio of very big, very hungry and very smart sharks who hunt in packs and wipe out most of the humans in the ocean floating/underwater laboratory. The film has plenty of stomach-churning gore, but it is also tongue-in-cheek to a certain extent, helping its watchability.

Although this film is not cerebral and one doesn’t watch it for stellar performances by actors’ actors, most of the cast does quite well, within the script’s shortcomings. Rapper LL Cool J plays a preacher/cook and manages to defuse a lot of situations with humour and becomes a very human, likeable character. His encounter with a shark in a kitchen, I thought, was one of the highlights of the film. Thomas Jane has the “hero” part, and he dispenses with the role well, but it is a cliché role and a cliché performance. The sharks are the real stars, and they do well what they are meant to do – eat everyone and everything in their path.

Ultimately, I guess one can say the film is enjoyable as pulp entertainment, provided one doesn’t have high expectations of it. It has lots of blood and gore, so be prepared for that if you watch it. The CGI sharks are good and the action sequences and explosions are fine. It rolls along in a good pace and maintains viewer interest. Shakespeare, it’s not.

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