Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Deep Blue Sea

(1999) **1/2

When I reviewed Tremors just now, I mentioned that sometimes comedy does a better job fashioning engaging characters than drama, and Deep Blue Sea is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. Fresh off her appearance in Wing Commander, Saffron Burrows plays one of those model/scientists who is hell bent for leather gonna cure alzheimer's. We get her character dossier when she recounts the heartbreak of having to tell her father over and over again that his wife was dead. I know alzheimer's is terrible, but I couldn't help think "lady, isn't that your bad? If he doesn't remember, do you have to tell him that every time?

So the scientist and her scientist buddies invite bigshot Samuel Jackson to their underwater facility where they're making big-brained sharks because the cure is lots of brain juice from sharks. After a night of rote character development they hoist a gimundo shark into the lab and get some brain juice, and sure enough it looks like it's the real cure, and then...wait for it...and then it all goes to hell.

Big brains mean smart sharks, and this trio of toothy customers have a plan to hit open water. It's unclear exactly how much is plan and how much is random chance, but I wasn't so impressed that the plan hinged on the incredible luck of the gale force storm and the sudden failure of the rescue helicoptor's winch. Soon the joint is flooding, threatening our dwindling crew with eventual drowndation while the deep water allows them to be stalked by sharks in their home and workplace.

Because this, I realized, is the movie's main hook: "There's a shark -- over by the coffee table!" It's not that different from the "floor's hot lava" game I referenced in my Tremors review, except it's far less interesting here for some reason.

Deep Blue Sea has a couple of worthy moments, but for me something never quite jells. It may be that the industrial setting is just too old hat, or that the characters are grinding some already worn grooves. There's a fair amount of Message kicking around, gumming up the works: lower class people are honest, science without conscious is bad (surprise! they did illegal genetic manipulation), religious faith is strength, L.L. Cool J is good, etc. Maybe it's simply too hard to root for the humans in this story, watching them get so roundly outwitted by fish.

But! But but but!

Deep Blue Sea has a scene of Gratuitous Stripping Down To Underwear.

Saffron unzips her wetsuit -- with fierce determination!

Step two: stand on wetsuit, grab cable of electric death...


This example is especially fun because it's unusual that stripping is actually part of someone's plan. Despite that distinction, I just can't bring myself to give this movie the three-star cred. Its overall flatness disappoints.


Jordan said...

I saw this a few years ago and I thought it was pretty mediocre. I LOVE Samuel Jackson's find scene, though.

Jordan said...

"final" scene. Sorry -- posting from the phone again.

Jordan said...

As far as "gratuitous stripping down to underwear goes," the champion film is...wait for it...Alien! (Although I didn't stoop to the level of tarnishing my highbrow review by mentioning such trivialities as thirty-year-old Sigourney Weaver in her Calvin Kleins.)

That scene is just amazing, because it's Ripley's single most heroic two minutes in the entire movie and Weaver's performance makes you feel the unbelievable terror she's facing and the sheer nerve it takes to load that speargun and open that door. She's singing "You are my lucky star...lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky star.." to herself tunelessly as she dons the spacesuit. It's the bravest moment in Ripley's life. There's nothing in the subsequent movies that even comes close.

(Yes, I'm still talking about Alien. So I'm off-topic; sue me. At least I'm not talking about some fucking high school musical.)

JPX said...

What I love about that scene is that it's the classic nightmare - finding yourself in danger while in your unederwear (or in a mall). Her underwear in that scene is really odd. I've never seen underwear like it since. It's cut in a really strange way.

JPX said...

My problem with Deep Blue Sea is the CG sharks. It's amazing how much more convincing JAWS is than this movie.

Jordan said...

Yeah, the sharks are fake-o. Samuel Jackson's, uh, last moment in the movie is like something out of a Tex Avery cartoon.

Jordan said...

Sigourney's underwear is just several sizes too small, just like the swimsuits they buy for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue (for which, I'm told, they routinely get the absolute smallest version of every suit the models wear).

JPX said...

Well I certainly approve of the too-small underwear thing - it's when it's too big that it's a problem!

Octopunk said...

On one hand, I can't believe I totally forgot about Alien when I was thinking about this phenom. On the other hand, I'm not sure it fits my odd criteria. I don't think anything in Alien is gratuitous; that scene is more about the nightmare element Boom Boom's talking about than straight up cheesecake.

Good cheesecake, though.

Jordan said...

Come on; it's pretty damn gratuitous!

JPX said...

I agree, it's pretty cheescakey. Why else do my pants get tight when I watch it?