Deep Blue Sea
Screenplay : Duncan Kennedy and Wayne Powers & Donna Powers
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 1999
Stars : Thomas Jane (Carter Blake), Saffron Burrows (Dr. Susan McAlester), Samuel L. Jackson (Russell Franklin), Jacqueline McKenzie (Janice Higgins), Michael Rapaport (Tom Scoggins), Stellan Skarsgard (Jim Whitlock), LL Cool J (Preacher), Aida Turturro (Brenda Kerns), Daniel Rey (Glenn Kuhn), Brent Roam (Dale Heather)
There is one particularly memorable moment in "Deep Blue Sea," a water-soaked action-adventure flick about genetically altered sharks hunting scientists in an underwater laboratory. The scene takes place after the sharks have already run amok and eaten half of the characters, and those who are still alive are squabbling amongst themselves. One character tries to take control by demanding that the others stop fighting, and he implores them to work together in order to survive.
It's a standard action movie speech, one that usually signals the music-laden climax where everyone suddenly pulls together. But here, right as the speech is finished, one of the sharks leaps out of the moon pool directly behind the character and eats him whole. Just like that.
It is the one truly unexpected moment in the movie, and it, better than any other moment, signals director Renny Harlin's generally tongue-in-cheek approach to the material. Nothing in "Deep Blue Sea" is original--most of it is recycled out of "Jaws" (1975) and "Jurassic Park" (1993). Knowing this, Harlin and the three screenwriters, Duncan Kennedy, Wayne Powers, and Donna Powers, throw in just enough moments like the one just described to break the action monotony and let us know that they are chuckling at this silliness as much as we are.
The story concerns a group of scientists who are trying to cure Alzheimer's Disease by harvesting a protein from the brain matter of sharks. In order to get more of the protein, they have genetically altered the sharks to grow more gray matter. Therefore, instead of one mindless eating machine in "Jaws," we get three intelligent sharks who recognize guns, hunt in packs, herd their prey, and even develop physical characteristics like the ability to swim backwards and increased speed. All of this serves to make them more deadly, and the people more vulnerable.
"Deep Blue Sea" doesn't do much to create memorable characters, but that's probably for the best because most of them end up shark meat (and Harlin relishes--simple relishes--his ability to use special effects to show the sharks underwater ripping people limb from limb in a cloud of computer-generated blood). Most of the actors are fairly bland, including Saffron Burrows as the lead scientist, Dr. Susan McAlester, a headstrong woman who barrels ahead in her research at all costs, causing all the trouble with her tunnel vision, and Thomas Jane as Carter Blake, the studly shark wrangler who is always willing to risk his life. The movie gets a jolt of much-needed energy from Samuel L. Jackson as a wealthy investor who is visiting the laboratory over the weekend to decide whether or not he wants to continue funding, and LL Cool J as a fallen-preacher-turned-cook who does a nifty escape trick in the flooding lab by climbing into his own oven to escape the sharks.
No one will accuse "Deep Blue Sea" of being any kind of cinematic marvel, but it is entertaining and guiltlessly trashy. Harlin, director of good action movies ("Die Hard 2," "Cliffhanger") and bad ("Cutthroat Island") is as deliberately single-minded as the sharks in what he wants to do. The key words are bigger, louder, and more violent, and Harlin delivers on all of them. "Deep Blue Sea" is the epitome of mindless summer entertainment, the kind that critics love to lambaste; but, it's put together with just enough energy, charisma, and knowing jokiness to make it into an enjoyable guilty pleasure.
©1999 James Kendrick