Deep Blue Sea (1999)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2009-06-27 08:54

Written by: Duncan Kennedy and Donna Powers & Wayne Powers
Directed by: Renny Harlin
Starring: Thomas Jane, Saffron Burrows, Samuel L. Jackson, and Stellan Skarsgård

Reviewed by: Brett G.

"Was that a goddamn shark broke through that door?"
"I expect so."
"You expect so? Huh. Well, well, well. Am I the only asshole down here who thinks that a tad bit odd?"

The year was 1999. The world was a decade removed from the ever infamous Jaws: The Revenge, which seemed to not only to kill the Jaws franchise, but also the entire killer shark sub-genre. As such, it would seem as though the world was ready for that genre to be given new life, and this need was fulfilled by OTH-favorite Renny Harlin with Deep Blue Sea. The Finnish legend delivered everything that we've come to expect from him: dynamic action, energetic pacing, a bottle of Finnish vodka, and yes, tons of explosions.

A team of scientists, led by Dr. Susan McAlester (Burrows) and Jim Whitlock (Skarsgård), are aboard a top secret aquatic base researching sharks to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease. After one of the test sharks escapes (only to be recaptured by Thomas Jane's "shark wrangler" character), the financial backer of the facility, Russell Franklin (Jackson), decides to visit the facility. It turns out that McAlester and crew have violated ethical codes and have genetically engineered three mako sharks that have developed a human-like intelligence along with a huge mean streak. Before long, the sharks begin to dismantle the facility, leaving the human crew in a race against both the ocean and the predators.

One of the best compliments I can give Deep Blue Sea is that it not only attempts to be more absurd and over-the-top than Jaws: The Revenge, but that it also manages to be far more entertaining. Of course, the film does attempt to give a logical, scientific explanation for the sharks' crazy behavior, so that helps as well. Still, the fact remains that this is one crazy, over-the-top affair. However, credit must also be given to the fact that the film realizes this and actually seems to relish in it instead of taking itself too seriously. As such, the film is a seriously fun popcorn film, which is precisely what Harlin excels at doing.

Indeed, much of the film's effectiveness lies in its frenetic, action-packed pacing, as it doesn't take too long for the shit to hit the fan, and once it does, we're treated to a series of escalating action and suspense sequences. The film's main conceit is ripe for such sequences, as the idea of being trapped in a sinking facility with both flooding waters and bloodthirsty sharks is an excellent concept that's executed well here. Rarely are there any slow spots, and the suspense is generally kept high because the film makes it clear from the start that anyone is shark bait.

This is not to say that the characters are lost amongst the frenzy, as Harlin's cast is solid. Thomas Jane kind of becomes the de facto main character who brings a sympathetic, human element to a film populated by characters who seem willing to sacrifice just about anything for bottom line results. Samuel L. Jackson is awesome as always, as is Stellan Skarsgård. Bringing the comic relief are Michael Rappaport and LL Cool J, who basically seems to be reprising his role from Halloween H20. Still, LL's character is surprisingly likeable here, with the comedic elements never seeming to be too forced. Cool J's 15 minutes of cinematic fame expired soon after the release of this film for whatever reason, but I think he showed that he could hold his own among a solid cast here.

If there's one huge weakness of Deep Blue Sea, it's the extremely poor computer-generated shark effects. While the mechanical sharks look fine, these CGI effects were barely passable in 1999, and they have not aged particularly well in the past ten years. It's difficult to overlook because of the sheer number of effects shots used, and many of them dilute the impact of their scenes. This is a shame because most of these scenes are involve the sharks doling out some pretty gruesome deaths that are more laughable than horrifying. I guess if there's one thing that'll never change about this sub-genre, it's the fact that the sharks will always look fake (even in 2015 if Marty McFly is to be believed).

Still, don't let this keep you from swimming in this deep blue sea. Where else are you going to see Samuel L. Jackson square off against a shark, a scantily-clad Saffron Burrows going Roy Schieder on one of the beasts, and, finally, a rap song where LL informs us that his "hat is like a shark's fin?" Nowhere other than under the watchful eye of Renny Harlin, that's for sure. The film has only been released once on DVD from Warner Home Video way back in 1999. Surprisingly, the video transfer is quite strong to be from this era, and the soundtrack is decent, if not a bit boomy and unbalanced. The disc is fairly features-laden, as it includes a commentary track with Jackson and Harlin, deleted scenes, the theatrical trailer, and two behind-the-scenes documentaries. Definitely a more than adequate package for a fun little flick that can be found for less than ten bucks these days. If you don't believe me, allow me to remind you that Samuel L. Jackson (sort of) personally endorsed this one very loudly during an appearance on Chappelle's Show (drink bitch!). Buy it!

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