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From the November 1999
Film Review

Film Review Hotline
DEEP BLUE SEA
3 Stars
Underwater Menace for Thomas Jane in Deep Blue Sea
Just when you thought it was safe...
STARS: Thomas Jane, Saffron Burrows, Samuel L Jackson, Jacqueline McKenzie, Michael Rapaport, Stellan Skarsgard,
LL Cool J

DIRECTOR: Renny Harlin
SCREENPLAY: Duncan Kennedy, Donna Powers and Wayne Powers
CERTIFICATE: 15 DISTRIBUTOR and Picture copyright: Warner Bros
RUNNING TIME: 1hr 45mins
OPENING DATE (UK): October 22

There is a danger in taking films about killer fish too seriously. It’s like criticizing Friday the 13th for the occasional lapse in credibility. The point of Deep Blue Sea, Jaws, Piranha and any other piscine picture is to put the heebie-jeebies up us.

The main problem with Deep Blue Sea (and one which provoked smug guffaws from a number of critics) is that it goes too far in trying to establish its scientific credentials. The sad truth of the matter is that most filmgoers don’t give a sprat’s fart for the scientific ballast, so long as the thrills are genuine and the action gory. To evoke the requisite willies from an audience one needs to build atmosphere and empathetic characters.

Spielberg understood this with his 1975 masterpiece and spared us a shot of the Great White until 82 minutes into the movie (by which time we were all quivering wrecks). Likewise, Ridley Scott went to great lengths to establish a realistic mise-en-scène before unveiling his Alien-from-hell.

Deep Blue Sea, the latest film from the Finnish action director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger), is a brazen mix of Jaws and Alien with a generous helping of The Poseidon Adventure, but is waterlogged by unlikely dialogue and po-faced exposition. Having said that, once the film starts getting down to its scare tactics, it works extremely well.

The premise is sound enough – for an effects movie: in an effort to provide a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, marine biologist Saffron Burrows genetically upgrades the brain capacity of three giant mako sharks. And, just as corporate tycoon Samuel L Jackson turns up to inspect her work, she reveals that the protein extracted from their grey matter really does have a revitalizing effect on degenerative human brain tissue.

Of course, introducing greater smarts to the most efficient killing machine in nature’s spectrum is a tad dicey, but then nobody expected that damned hurricane to go mad, either. The resultant mayhem provides a number of genuine surprises and the action is unquestionably tense, although sometimes the CGI shark effects leave a lot to be desired.

James Cameron-Wilson

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Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 1999. Not for reproduction.

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