“‘Deep’ Thrills”
by Scott Mantz

“Deep Blue Sea”
Saffron Burrows, Michael Rapaport, LL Cool J, Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by Renny Harlin

Renny Harlin needs a hit bad. You remember his recent box office classics “The Long Kiss Goodnight” and “Cutthroat Island”. Better yet, maybe you don’t. Well, Harlin returns to the form of “Cliffhanger” with his latest directorial effort “Deep Blue Sea”, an action thriller about some pretty darn smart killer sharks. Think of it as “Jaws” meets “Aliens”, but in this case the whole is definitely not greater than the sum of its parts.

Fortunately, Harlin knows this and directs the film with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Its a B-movie that knows its a B-movie, and its not ashamed to admit it. The film doesn’t take itself seriously, and Harlin has some fun by playing up some of the clichÈs found in most action-suspense movies. The result is a fun, suspenseful, and often humorous summer film.

Dr. Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows) is a marine scientist performing tests on sharks at Aquatica, an underwater research laboratory. Sharks are not effected by the same ailments that effect humans. By enlarging and absorbing the protein from their brains, McAlester hopes to find a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. The problem is, the sharks become super-intelligent and turn on their human captors. When a series of disasters cripples the compound, the scientists become trapped. They must escape before the compound is flooded, bringing the angry, and hungry, sharks to them.

There’s not too much going on in the character development department, and what little is provided is done only to establish the stereotypical clichÈs you’ve seen before with this type of film. McAlester is the sexpot, intelligent, insensitive mad scientist prepared to sacrifice the people around her to get results. Carter Blake (Thomas Jane) is the reluctant cowboy who you know is going to save the day. Tom Scoggins (Michael Rapaport) is the annoying tech-geek sidekick who you can’t wait to see get knocked off. Too bad Jar Jar Binks wasn’t in this movie!

Preacher (LL Cool J) is the only one you’re hoping will make it out alive. As the parrot-loving, bible-quoting cook, he is the heart of the film. The other characters are so one-dimensional, you actually wind up rooting for the sharks. The fun is in waiting for these people to get knocked off, not in rooting for their survival. When things turn awry, project funder Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson, who must have a goal to be in every film this year) makes an inspirational, uplifting speech about survival. Before he can finish his emotional speech he…well, lets just say the Force isn’t with this Jedi.

The tone of the film is evident, even in it’s marketing. One look at the one-sheet (that’s Hollywood lingo for “movie poster” folks!), and you’d think you were going to see “Jaws” meets “Baywatch”. Unlike the similarly themed “Event Horizon” or “Anaconda”, “Deep” plays with your expectations. The opening scene is an obvious homage to “Jaws”, but in this case the shark doesn’t get the girl. Some characters you think will survive do not, and others you hope are goners see the light of day. “Deep Blue Sea” may be shooting for the lowest common denominator, but as a summer popcorn film, it should whet your appetite.