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(1999) (Saffron Burrows, Samuel L. Jackson) (R)

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Suspense/Thriller/Horror: A research team must contend with a pack of genetically altered, ultra intelligent sharks that have invaded their sinking research station.
On the floating laboratory, Aquatica, Dr. Susan McAlester (SAFFRON BURROWS) is conducting controversial experiments in hopes of achieving a medical breakthrough. Aware that sharks rarely develop any diseases, she's genetically re-engineered the DNA of several mako sharks hoping to find the key to reactivating human brain cells and thus eradicating Alzheimer's.

When one of her carnivorous "subjects" escapes and attacks a quartet of boaters, however, McAlester finds her project in danger of losing its funding. Granted a forty-eight-hour reprieve from her financial backers, including Russell Franklin (SAMUEL L. JACKSON), she returns to the station with Franklin who wants to see how his money's being spent

With only the weekend skeleton crew on board -- including assistant Jim Whitlock (STELLAN SKARSGÅRD), marine biologist Janice Higgins (JACQUELINE McKENZIE), facility engineer Scoggins (MICHAEL RAPAPORT), resident shark expert Carter Blake (THOMAS JANE), meteorologist Brenda (AIDA TURTURRO) and Sherman "Preacher" Dudley (LL COOL J), the lab's cook -- McAlester prepares for her groundbreaking experiment.

While the test is a success, tragedy strikes when a shark attacks a crew member. Things worsen when a rescue helicopter crashes into the station during a tropical storm, and then when another premeditated shark attack ensures that the Aquatica is completely incapacitated. In fact, it's sinking, and the surviving crew members then do what they can to make their way to the surface of their crippled station while avoiding the fast and ultra intelligent sharks that are now swimming through the flooding hallways and compartments.

If they liked "Jaws," or are fans of such movies and/or someone in the cast, it's a good bet -- although this one seems most attractive to male teens.
For graphic shark attacks, and for language.
  • SAFFRON BURROWS plays a researcher who broke some medical research conventions by altering the DNA of the sharks.
  • THOMAS JANE plays the resident shark expert and robust hero.
  • LL COOL J plays the station's cook and initial self-doubter about his chances to survive.
  • SAMUEL L. JACKSON plays the financial backer behind McAlester's project.
  • JACQUELINE McKENZIE, MICHAEL RAPAPORT and STELLAN SKARSGÅRD play other crew members who don't get to do much other than contend with the shark attacks (and cuss or act belligerent under the circumstances).


    OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
    Certain films have earned the right to be considered as the ultimate standard in their respective genres. For example, movies about people onboard sinking vessels will forever be compared to "Titanic" or "The Poseidon Adventure." Suspense thrillers about intelligent animals hunting down human prey must match the standards set by the first two "Alien" films. Likewise, any picture dealing with sharks will inevitably face the litmus test of living up to the original "Jaws."

    Having to face such a comparison is tough for any new film, but trying to have one release face the scrutiny of meeting or exceeding the cumulative standards set by several films is next to impossible. Unfortunately, that's exactly what Warner Bros. "Deep Blue Sea" attempts to do.

    The latest picture from Renny Harlin -- the epic action director responsible for "Cliffhanger," "The Long Kiss Goodnight" and the abysmal "Cutthroat Island" -- this release will surely draw immediate comparisons to the "Jaws" films, but clearly lifts as much source material from any of those sinking boat or aliens in tight quarters pictures.

    Instead of playing as an original thriller, this film feels like a recycled collection of scenes and elements from those other movies, especially when certain parts are directly taken from them. Consequently, audiences will more likely be reminded of those superior films instead of getting caught up in this story.

    As such, one has to wonder why the filmmakers chose to make this picture. According to the press kit, the reasons are twofold, although that doesn't necessarily ensure that they're sound. While "Jaws" and its sequels pretty much devoured any and all of the "shark terrorizes man in its environment" elements (the beaches or out at sea), none featured the sharks swimming about in flooded hallways, rooms or other indoor structures.

    While that's something of a novel idea (for a shark film), it's nothing but a minor variation on the "Alien" films where said creatures did the same, albeit mostly without the water (although one such watery scene in "Aliens" was far more suspenseful than everything in this film combined).

    The more obvious reason for making this film was that with today's advanced special effects -- both visual and mechanical -- such sharks could be more realistically represented. That's all fine and dandy, but in doing so Harlin and his special effects team seem to have forgotten which parts of the original "Jaws" were suspenseful and scary (the ones where we didn't see the shark) and which ones weren't or became laughable (where one could see the obviously mechanical "Bruce" the shark).

    While this film's effects are decidedly far more superior to those in Steven Spielberg's 1975 classic, they still don't always look real and they certainly can't and don't make the film any more suspenseful on their own.

    Thus, we simply have the standard set pieces where people swim, wade or fall into the water and fret that they'll be eaten. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that most of them end up as shark hors d'oeuvres and that's about the only suspense the film offers -- trying to figure out who will be taken and in what order.

    Sure, there's some scientific mumbo jumbo about the sharks being genetically altered and thus being faster and smarter than the rest of their kin. Yet, that whole element and especially the characters' comments about the critters' diabolical plans often elicit more laughs and groans than thrills and chills.

    I'm sorry, but although I can buy intelligent outer space aliens figuring things out, I just couldn't do the same with sharks smart enough to destroy surveillance cameras (unless they're already becoming stars and thus hate the paparazzi and related gear). Had some earlier scenes shown the vast and believable intelligence of the creatures -- such as displayed by dolphins and certainly beyond the brief bit where they back up upon seeing a spear gun aimed at them -- then that whole bit would be much easier to swallow later in the story.

    Simply put, humans are chased and eaten one by one while fleeing through flooding and claustrophobic corridors by ultra intelligent sharks (if they're so smart, one hopes that they took their salaries up front instead of receiving a percentage of the film's back end profits). If you've never seen such a film -- especially the aforementioned original ones from which this one so heavily borrows -- you might find the proceedings exciting. Otherwise, you'll just be counting the number of survivors trying to guestimate how much longer you'll be trapped in the theater.

    The characters and the performers who inhabit them don't do much to help matters. Of course, the blame for that lies on the shoulders of screenwriters Duncan Kennedy and Donna Powers & Wayne Powers, for they've written characters that are minimally developed and barely have enough meat on them to entice the sharks, let alone any sympathy from the audience.

    Even so, the mere presence of talented performers such as Samuel L. Jackson ("Pulp Fiction") and Stellan Skarsgård ("Ronin") and the attractive "hard bodies" of Saffron Burrows ("The Loss of Sexual Innocence") and Thomas Jane ("The Thin Red Line") at least keep the film afloat for a while.

    That is, until the repeated lifting of material from other films eventually sinks this one into mediocrity. Not only are we "treated" to a "grab my hand and I'll save you scene" from Harlin's own "Cliffhanger," but also plenty of bits lifted from the "Jaws" films -- the sudden sight of a dead body underwater and a ripoff of the demise of the sharks "Jaws" and "Jaws 2" -- just to name a few.

    After "Jaws" filled the theaters and cleared the beaches in the summer of 1975, many films have tried to follow in its wake, but few, if any, have been critically or commercially successful. Now you can add "Deep Blue Sea" to that list. Even director Renny Harlin seemed to realize that as he's briefly seen in a cameo leaving the station along with most everyone else before the mayhem ensues. At least he made the right choice there. We give "Deep Blue Sea" a 3 out of 10.

    Here's a quick look at the content found in this R rated suspense/thriller. Being a film about people attacked by sharks, it should come as little surprise that it's filled with many suspenseful scenes as well as those featuring rather bloody and gruesome deaths of characters being eaten or shredded by such creatures.

    Profanity is heavy due to at least 4 uses of the "f" word, while other profanities and colorful phrases are also present. Some women are briefly seen in skimpy bikinis or underwear, and a few are seen making out with young men. A bit of drinking and smoking is also present.

    Due to the severity of the shark attacks and the possibility that they and other related scenes could induce nightmares in kids (or prevent them from getting anywhere near any standing water), we suggest that you take a closer look at the listed content should you still be concerned about its appropriateness for anyone in your home.

  • We see two young men drinking beer on a boat and moments later see a spilled wine bottle.
  • At a party onboard the station, Dudley pours drinks for people, including Franklin who has vodka.
  • After Susan asks him how he avoided a shark attack, Blake comments that maybe he'll tell her if she takes him up on a beer he previously offered her.
  • After the station is rocked by an explosion, Dudley finds an undamaged bottle of wine/liquor, opens it and drinks a great deal of its contents.
  • From a distance we see Whitlock urinating off an outdoor station platform (as Franklin comments on him "pissing into the wind").
  • We see the fake, but moderately realistic looking brain of a shark inside a model.
  • During a feeding, we see several sharks shred another shark into bits with lots of blood in the water.
  • We see and hear the squishing sound of several probes going into a shark's head (but there's no blood).
  • A shark suddenly bites off a man's arm and we see the bloody stump as well as lots of blood flowing from the open wound.
  • A man's hand is a little bloody, as is Dudley's later in another scene.
  • A shark suddenly grabs a man, chews on him a bit and then tears his body in half (resulting in bloody water).
  • We see a character in the middle of a shark's mostly closed jaws.
  • After a shark kills another character, we see lots of blood in the water.
  • A shark tears a body in half and we see the lower half (with a twitching leg) float away.
  • A character's leg is bloody after a shark attack, as is the bandage later seen around the wound.
  • A character purposefully cuts their hand to draw blood (and we see a little).
  • We see more severed body parts (from a distance) after another person is killed.
  • We see a huge, bloody explosion with bloody chunks of shark flesh falling into the water.
  • A character has a bloody cut on their leg and face.
  • We hear that Blake spent two years in prison for smuggling.
  • Susan evidently has both for breaking a ban on genetically altering animals (and not telling the rest of the crew the results of her work).
  • Under the stress of the ever worsening situation, several characters say bad things to others.
  • The very young or easily frightened may find the following as more suspenseful/scary than the older, average moviegoer.
  • Two young couples on a boat have an encounter with a shark at night. First, it repeatedly bumps their vessel (after we see its underwater point of view) and then finally bursts up through it, sending all four into the water. With suspenseful music playing, they try to get back on board before the shark gets them.
  • We see Blake swimming in one of the large holding tanks and a huge shark coming right after him (but he survives the encounter).
  • At night, Susan cautiously walks out onto the darkened deck.
  • At night and underwater, Blake swims through a tunnel made entirely of cage walls and has two sharks try to attack him from either side of it. He then swims through the open waters and has a shark come after him.
  • A shark suddenly bites off a man's arm and we see the bloody stump as well as lots of blood flowing from the open wound, as well as the crew trying to save his life.
  • A helicopter tries to lift that man to safety, but a mechanical mishap (during a ferocious storm at night) turns into tragedy as the man is dropped back into the water and grabbed underwater by a shark.
  • A shark speeds toward an observation window and hurtles a man toward it, worsening the man's injuries and shattering the glass, causing a great deal of water to rush into the compartment. The crew members inside then try to rush to dry safety.
  • A character hesitantly wades through some water as strange sounds echo around him. We then see a shark coming after him.
  • A character falls into the water after just witnessing a shark eat a parrot in front of his eyes.
  • A man tries to hide in a glass front oven from a shark attack that accidently ignites the oven.
  • The characters try to climb through a vertical shaft that's flooding from the bottom and occasionally raining fiery debris onto them from above.
  • A shark nearly gets a man on a ladder.
  • A ladder falls, sending one person into the flooding waters and the other two hanging just above it. They try to rescue the other person, but a shark gets there first.
  • Two characters go underwater and try to attempt something knowing that the sharks are around them.
  • Several more lethal shark attacks may be tense to some viewers.
  • A character slowly walks down some steps into a flooded compartment and then across it, aware that a shark could be lurking underneath.
  • A person tries to avoid another shark attack after a false alarm scare and nearly has their hand bitten off.
  • Several characters try to swim to the surface and avoid the sharks.
  • A shark grabs a character and pulls him through the water, but that man stabs the shark several times until it lets him go.
  • A person jumps into the water to bait the shark.
  • Several more shark attacks may be suspenseful/scary to some viewers.
  • Harpoon: Used by Carter to capture an attacking shark.
  • Gun: Fired into the air at the start of a party.
  • Spear gun: Carried by Blake as protection and later usee to spear a shark through its dorsal fin.
  • Explosive: Used to kill a shark.
  • Phrases: "What the f*ck," "Pissing," "Stupid ass," "Cut the crap," "You stupid bitch" (said by one woman to another), "Screw" (nonsexual) and "Balls" (testicles).
  • Dudley playfully gives someone "the finger."
  • The sound of a fired flare may startle some viewers.
  • Two sharks suddenly attack either side of a cage tunnel.
  • A captured shark suddenly rears up and surprises everyone.
  • A shark suddenly bites off a man's arm.
  • Dudley's parrot scares him.
  • A shark suddenly grabs a man, chews on him a bit and then tears his body in half.
  • A dead (but not gory) body suddenly pops up in front of someone underwater.
  • An extreme amount of suspenseful and/or frightening music plays throughout much of the film.
  • None.
  • At least 4 "f" words, 3 "s" words, 10 damns, 7 asses (3 used with "hole"), 6 hells, 1 S.O.B., 1 crap and 3 uses of "G-damn," 2 of "Oh my God" and 1 use of "Christ" as exclamations.
  • We see two young couples making out/caressing each other onboard a boat at night. The women are dressed in bikinis (one that's rather skimpy/high cut and shows cleavage), but nothing else happens as they have an encounter with a shark (although one of the women asks a man if he feels something and the guy enthusiastically responds, "Yeah, I feel something").
  • Another woman on the station shows a bit of cleavage.
  • A character sees a Playboy magazine floating by, picks it up and briefly looks inside it (we don't see anything but a brief glimpse of the cover that doesn't show anything explicit).
  • We briefly see Higgins in her bra.
  • Looking for batteries, Scoggins asks where Higgins' vibrator might be (he doesn't call it by that name, but implies it by his gestures and asking, "Where would a girl keep her thing?").
  • When discussing how time is relative, Dudley says that putting your hands on a hot woman would make an hour seem like a second.
  • Susan strips down to her rather skimpy bra and underwear (needing her rubber wetsuit as insulation under her feet). As such, we see several shots from above her that show a great deal of her wet breasts and related cleavage (still in her bra).
  • Franklin smokes a cigar and Whitlock smokes a cigarette.
  • Susan briefly talks about repeatedly having to tell her father -- who was suffering from Alzheimer's -- that his wife was dead.
  • Whether there's any validity to the medical experiments as presented here.
  • That shark attacks are a bit more rare than as shown here.
  • A shark breaks through a boat's hull, but before it can get the occupants, Carter shoots and captures it with a harpoon.
  • During a feeding, we see several sharks shred another shark into bits.
  • Two sharks try to attack Blake in a cage tunnel and then destroy several surveillance cameras.
  • A shark suddenly bites off a man's arm and we see the bloody stump as well as lots of blood flowing from the open wound.
  • A helicopter crashes and explodes, killing a total of three people.
  • A shark speeds toward an observation window and hurtles a man toward it, killing him and shattering the glass, causing a great deal of water to rush into the compartment.
  • A shark eats a parrot.
  • A shark is blown up by a gas explosion.
  • Franklin implies that during an event before this story started, several people were purposefully killed.
  • A shark suddenly grabs a man, chews on him a bit and then tears his body in half.
  • A shark kills another character.
  • A shark kills yet another character, tearing the body in half.
  • A shark is electrocuted after trying to attack another person.
  • A shark grabs a character and pulls him through the water, but the man stabs the shark several times until it lets go of him.
  • A person purposefully slices open their palm to make it bleed.
  • Another character is attacked and killed by the shark.
  • A spear penetrates a shark's dorsal fin and injures a character's leg.
  • A shark is blown up with an explosive.

  • Reviewed July 28, 1999 / Posted July 29, 1999

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