This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Regional Editor for RiverTown Multimedia, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Deep Blue Sea.”
The Movie: “Deep Blue Sea”
Starring: Thomas Jane, Saffron Burrows, Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Renny Harlin
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Searching for a cure to Alzheimer’s disease, a group of scientists on an isolated research facility become the prey, as a trio of intelligent sharks fight back.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 56 percent
Brown: Look, no movie I was going to pick this week was going to top “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
So, why bother? You know how you move on from what I consider a perfect action movie?
Answer: Smart sharks, a talking bird and a director who was aching to knock “Jaws” off its perch as the best ocean horror movie.
Enter “Deep Blue Sea.”
I had never seen this movie before this week. All I knew was the Samuel L. Jackson death scene and the LL Cool J rap that was all over MTV in the late ‘90s with lyrics such as “My hat is like a shark’s fin.” Also, synchronized swimmers in a rap video.
What a time to be alive!
And watching it… there’s a lot to digest about this
video game full-length film.
I’ma get my wetsuit on. Froemming, what did you know about “Deep Blue Sea” before this week?
Froemming: Never seen it before. Never had an urge to see it. Barely remembered it was a thing until you chose it, and then I had to pay to rent it because Amazon decided to stop streaming it for free.
Also, I have trouble paying attention to movies that take place in water. I don’t know why, but my mind just starts wandering, with the exception of “Jaws.”
So going in, the odds were stacked against this flick for me.
And, I was surprised to find how entertaining this is once it stopped being a science-fiction drama and became “Friday The 13th: Jason Becomes A Shark.”
Brown, why don’t you kick off this Thomas Jane (a poor man’s Aaron Eckhart) vehicle.
Brown: Immediately, we see a boat where it looks like Dennis Reynolds and Mac from “Always Sunny” are performing “The implication” to a pair of young women. And it’s the weirdest set-up. The ocean has no waves. Someone had the bright idea of setting up a boombox with a teddy bear on top to set the sexy mood. The first three lines of the movie are:
*A couple making out*
Girl: “Do you feel something?”
Guy: “Oh, I feel something.”
Minute later, walk by other couple making out.
Other guy: “We’re having a party!”
Four people on a boat is not a party. Gathering, maybe. Hanging out, yes. Party, no.
Froemming: It’s not a party unless the Beastie Boys kick down your door and demand their right to fight for such a thing.
Brown: And then, this movie stops messing around. After some wine spills in the ocean, we start having a shark attack the boat. Now…
Pro: This movie doesn’t mess around. It takes three minutes for a shark to show up, as opposed to like 40 in “Jaws.”
Con: Wine attracts a shark?! Yeah, I know it’s red wine but it’s not blood. Plus, it’s dark out so how the hell is a shark going to see color?
This is the kind of brain power you can expect in “Deep Blue Sea.”
Froemming: I’m no scientist, but I think the movie tried to make us think a shark would confuse wine with blood and that is absolutely not a thing that would ever happen.
Brown: Maybe the sharks are Catholic and could smell the blood of Christ? It’s as plausible as anything else in this movie.
Froemming: Or maybe the sharks are just plain old alcoholics.
Now the boat starts getting rocked by this drunk shark, thirsty for blood and whatever is left in the booze cabinet. And EVERYBODY falls into the ocean at the same time, which made my eyes roll into the back of my head.
Flailing around in the water and in fear of being eaten, these dummies are saved by our hero,
Frank Castle Carter Blake, who just so happened to be lurking in the dark watching these young couples make out…wait, I think Carter is a pervert!
Brown: He really punished that shark, didn’t he?
Brown: I deserve that.
At least in that one moment, Carter Blake proved to be a bigger badass than Chief Brody. At least until the end of “Jaws.”
Turns out, this shark escaped a research facility where the sharks are being used for Alzheimer’s research and Carter was there to wrangle it (see: shoot it with a (REDACTED) harpoon).
Dr. Susan McAlester (Burrows) is called in front of the corporate backers to explain what happened. Apparently the shark escaping is worthy of a USA Today centerpiece (which it would NEVER get). So to get a better idea of what’s going on at this facility, Russell Franklin (Jackson) is coming with Susan to check things out.
Now, Susan’s motivation for this research is her father, whose brain activity has deteriorated to the point he’s now Drew Barrymore’s character in “50 First Dates” and he can’t remember what happened to his wife, who had died. Burrows says that “I had to watch him take that loss like a car wreck.”
So… stop telling him that.
Froemming: Having lost a grandparent to Alzheimer’s, it is tragic. Tragic enough to genetically alter the brains of sharks? Yes, I see where she is coming from. But she is a real turd about it when she threatens Carter’s job (he’s a felon who landed this crazy job that felons probably never land) if he says he saw three of their sharks hunt in packs like dogs to anyone else.
Because the sharks are getting smarter. And we are all now dumber for having watched this premise.
Brown: When Russell visits the lab, he gets a brief intro to everyone. My favorite is Jim Whitlock, played by Stellan Skarsgard. He’s explained as the smartest man alive as he’s taking a leak into the ocean. Russell’s response: “He’s pissing into the wind. How smart can he be?” That is actually a brilliant line.
My least favorite is Scoggins (Michael Rapaport). When Carter asks him how high the fences are in the shark pen, he says eight feet, give or take a centimeter. … You went to CalTech and you disregard the difference between imperial and metric measurements? They need to rescind your diploma, good sir.
And then there’s Preacher. He’s easily the most likable character here, right Froemming?
Froemming: Yes, mostly because of his pet bird. Also, in a place filled with scientists and shark experts, I feel it was kinda racist to make the only black guy (besides Jackson, but he doesn’t work there) a cook. But whatever, he becomes the audience’s avatar toward the end of this with his commentary, which felt like “Community”-level meta.
And like you, I was not a fan of
Louis CK Rapaport in this. For a allegedly smart guy, he is pretty stupid a lot of the time in this movie.
Brown: You bring up that Preacher is the audience surrogate, but the movie does a weird thing where they have Preacher be the surrogate as far as attitude, then they make Scoggins the guy who has to dumb down the science, and it just makes for a weird dynamic.
Example: The reason the sharks are intelligent is because Susan and Jim altered the shark’s brains to make them bigger, thus creating smart sharks, which is illegal. Scoggins then has to chip in and say “So what you’re saying is, we screwed with the sharks and now the sharks are screwing with us.” I can see that, Rapaport. You don’t need to make an observation that is blatantly obvious.
As for Preacher… LL Cool J oozes charm. Weird thing I read: Apparently, Samuel L. Jackson was supposed to be the chef. Much worse movie if that’s the case.
My favorite bit was late in the movie when Preacher finds a tape recorder and gives his last thoughts, instead of some heartfelt message to anyone who finds the tape, he explains his way of making the perfect omelette. Little touches like that make me enjoy a character.
Froemming: To be honest, up to this point I was bored stiff with the movie. Water, pseudoscience, fake politics from the 90s, it was a perfect storm of boredom.
Until the perfect storm of chaos all came at once.
This big experiment is underway. Carter has nabbed the big shark so Susan can poke into its brain and get its adrenochrome, because these scientists like to party.
Brown: It’s brain goo (scientific term).
Froemming: But because the shark is now a genius, it senses they are messing with it. They get the stuff all right, and when Whitlock relaxes to take his celebratory smoke break, he touches the beast and…THE THING EATS HIS ARM RIGHT OFF!
OK, movie, you got me engaged now.
Brown: Stellan Skarsgard never dies handling the Infinity Stones in the Marvel universe but he sure as (REDACTED) gets to meet his maker while handling a shark!
As they bring him up top for a helicopter extraction, the weather blows Whitlock into the shark pen and… that doesn’t go well. To the point that a shark attack him and has the power to move the helicopter (thanks to the winch the doc was attached to acting as fishing line) into the radio tower, which sets off a terrible chain of events that turns the lab Aquatica into what is essentially
SeaLab 2020 an underwater tomb.
Also, these smart sharks know the idea of a symbolic kill because it drags Whitlock into the water and launches it into the lab deck’s window to the water, which causes the glass to shatter and break.
Water is pouring in like crazy, which makes for an intense moment. It’s even more intense when you realize in that scene, it’s the real actors (not stunt doubles) that are running for their lives because of a mistake on set.
Froemming: I wrote in my notes that once I saw something suspicious heading toward the glass, I would have hightailed it out of a room that could easily be drowned. Because I am a coward.
Brown: Dude, it’s an underwater lab. You could easily drown EVERYWHERE.
Froemming: The GLASS man. The glass is gonna BREAK!
Brown: So now, this movie becomes a stalker movie as the humans try to find an escape to the surface. With the top of the lab engulfed in flames due to the helicopter crash, they head down lower for a submersive.
Morale is obviously low as the crew is soaked and 500 million years of streamlined evolution combined with genetic manipulation have turned sharks into Jason Voorhees. And somewhere, Preacher is trying to stay alive with his smack-talking bird he named… Bird.
Froemming: I’m shocked this wasn’t produced by Jerry Bruckheimer or directed by Michael Bay.
Brown: OK, something I want to discuss right now: So you hated the fridge scene in “Crystal Skulls”… how did you feel about Preacher being saved by a shark attack by hoping into an oven?
Froemming: This movie knows it isn’t a critical darling with three previous instalments that were well regarded. Having said that, I thought it was stupid, but where else could he go? Also, I laughed way too hard when the shark turned the oven on and he had to use his axe to smash his way out.
Brown: So, so dumb. This one actually offended me more than the nuke fridge.
Reason being, Indiana Jones lives in a world of fantasy where he survived plane crashes by parachuting with a raft. It’s a fantasy world. This movie spent 30-plus minutes shoving science down my throat.
Froemming: Dude, you need to let the stupidity of the nuke fridge go. You’re bordering on “Star Wars” fans who claim the prequels were superior to the originals.
Brown: I’m not that insane…
Froemming: This is a movie with serial killer sharks. The oven scene was stupid, but so was sharks ramming down doors and placing a decoy dead shark to trick a woman into thinking she was safe.
Brown: With that said, you know what was awesome? Samuel L. Jackson meeting his maker.
I have something to say about Russell’s speech, though. So, it’s mentioned several times in the movie that Russell once saved people from an avalanche. And his first line to motivate the troops is “You think water’s fast? You should see ice. It moves like it has a mind.”
Ice… is not fast. Yeah, he’s talking about an avalanche, but god, what a stupid line.
Froemming: Having not seen any of this movie before, this was by far my favorite moment. I sensed something like it was coming, but when it did, I laughed so loud I probably woke up my neighbors (I watch these after work, so 1 a.m. is when I usually watch JOE-DOWN movies).
Brown: It’s a great kill in the same way that the Drew Barrymore (second time I’ve referenced her today, weird) kill in “Scream.” You don’t expect it at that point in time because Samuel L. Jackson is the biggest actor in this movie. After this, it dawns on you that no one is safe. And that makes for a good horror element.
Froemming: Now we shift gears from slasher flick to “The Poseidon Adventure,” where our ragtag group now climbs up the elevator shaft to survive. But like everywhere on this thing, nothing is safe from the drunk, homicidal sharks that blast down doors to flood rooms and eat the people who made their brains big.
And thus it happens here: The shark knocks down a door and starts flooding the escape route. Carter needs to open another door on another level to flood that area and allow the gang to continue upward.
And here we lose whatshername, the other doctor who is kinda just there in this movie.
Brown: Yeah, it was Janice, who was Jim’s main squeeze. She didn’t matter much.
Meanwhile, Preacher survives his oven scare by using said gas oven to his advantage and throwing his lighter, which causes the shark to explode.
This will not be the last shark to explode. This movie tries way too hard to top “Jaws.”
After securing the kill, Preacher runs into the rest of the group, so we’re reuniting everyone.
I know at one point, the group finds some wetsuits because they know there’s a lot of underwater stuff that’s going down. Did it bug you like it did me that of course Susan is the only one who has a front-zipping wetsuit, designed specifically to show Saffron Burrow’s cleavage?
Froemming: Yup. We also have her strip down to her bra and panties for reasons later on.
Brown: Well, her wetsuit is rubber and she’s trying to electrocute a shark so … yeah, it’s a stupid reason for T&A.
Froemming: Anyway, the gang is going through another whowasthatagain’s stuff to find supplies. And Tom alludes that she must have had a sex toy and there is probably batteries in it. Tom and people like him are the reason women do not feel safe on college campuses.
Brown: Per usual, Michael Rapaport plays a character that’s unlikable.
Froemming: Michael Rapaport is unlikable. In general.
Anyway, Tom and Carter take off to the control panel somewhere and Susan does her bra-and-panties thing with a shark as she goes to find that sweet, sweet adrenochrome so she can go out tripping balls.
Brown: Well, it was to find her research, but now that’s fried after she shocked the shark.
So now, literally everyone that has died up to this point has died for NOTHING.
Froemming: Yeah man, this movie inspired a lot of snooty college philosophy majors really into existentialism.
And the control panel? Eh, it is fried. And on the way back, Tom is eaten by a shark, which I imagine was pure fan service to people who find Boston accents insufferable.
Brown: Quick thought: when Susan walks to her room, they keep showing shots of her feet. Did you think Quentin Tarantino did a director cameo for a scene like I did?
Anyway, we are down to Carter, Susan and Preach and they get to a decompression chamber they have to fill with water before they can blow the hatch and swim to the surface. It’s here we get the motivational sermon my life has needed (NSFW-ish).
They get to the surface, only for Preach to get attacked by a shark… that he somehow kills with his big-ass crucifix.
You know what, whatever. I freaked out over the oven. I’m not going down that anger road again.
Froemming: What I don’t get is after he survives having his legs mangled by razor sharp shark teeth, he is able to stand up later. Nope, no way.
Brown: And it’s here we find out why the sharks are doing all this: they are trying to flood the facility so the steel fence will lower four feet and the sharks can escape.
… This horror is over FOUR FEET OF FENCE?! Holy (REDACTED), movie.
Froemming: Before they fly up to the surface, Preach says something to the effect that black people never make it out of these situations alive, a meta take on the old black person dies right away in horror films cliche. I love Preach in this.
They need to distract the shark from getting out, so Susan slices open her hands and jumps into the water. It would have seem like a brave sacrifice if not for the reason all this (REDACTED) happened was because of her hubris. She pretty much deserved getting swallowed up by the monster.
Brown: The shark goes so far as to taunt Susan. Weird, but hell, sharks swam backwards earlier in the movie.
There is one more chance to take this final shark out. Preach shoots a harpoon that has an explosive attached, but it spikes Carter into the shark during the struggle.
Brown: Eventually, Carter gets free and shoots the explosive. He may as well say to the shark “Smile you son of a bitch.” Now, I know they won’t be smart sharks, but I think that atomic explosion of shark parts is going to attract every water predator within 1,000 miles.
Froemming: And just in time, the weekday crew shows up to see their workplace smoldering and in chaos. Also, nobody went there to check on the helicopter crew that went missing during the storm? That doesn’t make any sense. Whatever, Preach and Carter survived the ordeal.
Brown, let’s pop on the scuba suits and dive down to recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: I had fun with this one, so yes. There’s enough notable things that can keep this above the pile of generic action-dramas from the 90s. Watch it with some drinks and a few friends and have a good time.
Froemming: Sure. It was a dumb-fun action flick. Not a lot of heavy lifting in the thinking department, but I enjoyed it.
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