I have to admit, every time Hollywood hurls serious cash at an animal run amok movie, my pulse quickens. Since Jaws tore chunks out of the box office back in ’75, every single half-decent nature-gone-crazy gut cruncher from old school rip offs like Alligator, Piranha or, yes, even Grizzly (don’t laugh, the novelization was dope) to relative newbies like Rogue or The Shallows has stirred childlike excitement in my flabby, chewable torso. I don’t know exactly why. Maybe it’s the primal fear we all carry about being prey that’s programmed into each and every one of us like a Nintendo cheat code, or maybe it’s that nature is just simply an amazing petrie dish for creating razor toothed serial killers but whether it’s by land, air or sea, I fucking dig them.
A floating research team is fucking around with the DNA of Mako sharks in order to help cure dementia (just go with it). However, a side effect of making them and their brains bigger is that they are now probably smart enough to give Jurassic Park’s Velociraptors a run for their money at Trivial Pursuit. The skeleton crew of scientists, technicians and Thomas Jane anxiously await the arrival of Samuel L. Jackson’s entrepreneur to see if their funding will be cut but they soon have bigger problems to deal with as the three huge sharks under their care make like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape and break the fuck out, or is that in. Before you can say “Jaws Indoors” the facility partially floods and the survivors are stalked through the corridors by famished dorsal fins and nommed by yawning maws.
It’s relentlessly silly stuff but, more importantly, it’s gloriously entertaining in a good old fashioned beer ‘n pizza kind of way as the daft, yet still inventive set pieces play out in explosive ways. I mean that literally, by the way as the majority of scenes DO actually end with an explosion. The coolest of these is when the fiendish fish ingeniously use a rescue helicopter, a stretcher and Stellan Skarsgård to escape. “Someone, PLEASE tell me WHAT that IS!” barks L. Jackson as one of the aquatic bastards bears down on their viewing window using the Swedish actor as a battering ram. I’ll tell you what that is Mr. L. Jackson, that’s Macguyver with gills and a mouth the size of a manhole cover. Impressively, the insanity doesn’t stop here. Jane indulges in some shark surfing, a professionally unlikable Saffron Burrows defeats a shark by stripping down to her smalls and rapper LL Cool J somehow gets himself locked in an oven. The vast amounts of salt needed to be taken to take this movie seriously would obviously be fatal so my advice is to let the stupid simply wash over you and just enjoy it for what it is. Plus it contains a performance by Michael Rappaport, which by my reckoning was a legal requirement for 67% of all films made in the 90’s to contain.
The cast are super game, positively relishing the absurd dialogue. How can you not love a film where someone gravely states: “What does an 8,000- pound Mako shark with a brain the size of a flathead V-8 engine and no natural predators think about?” without a single shred of irony. That’s where overly spoofy stuff like Sharknado fall down. Yes, it’s all a joke and yes, both we and the film makers are in on it. But you don’t show it, if it’s good enough you’ll know it.
This brings us to Hollywood Super Hack Renny Harlin, who by 1999 had already churned out sequels Die Hard 2, Nightmare On Elm Street 4, superior Stallone rock dangler; Cliffhanger and the underrated Shane Black scripted snark-fest The Long Kiss Goodnight. Despite his some of his more recent failings he was a populist director of some flair and imagination during the 90’s and he obviously just gets shit like this. The sets are lush and action slick, and while the CGI sharks often look like bath toys from a distance, the practical, on set, animatronic beasties are magnificent, thrashing and snapping and swallowing arms like cocktail sausages. In fact, the practical robot thespians are so good, eagle eyed viewer would have spotted cameos by them in other films such as The Perfect Storm and Anchorman 2.
And we can’t leave without addressing THAT twist. You know the one… And while I won’t divulge it here, it’s that exact level of mean-spirited glee that makes Deep Blue Sea so fun, something it’s incoming SyFy Channel follow up can’t hope to match (why they didn’t call it Deep Blue Sequel I’ll never know).
Dumb, fun and endearingly silly, Deep Blue Sea proves it ain’t necessarily always a bad thing to jump the shark.