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Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Director: Renny Harlin

review by Steven Hampton

Saffron Burrows plays an ambitious scientist using shark brains to find a cure for Alzheimer's. Samuel L. Jackson is the wealthy but demanding investor, curious enough about this line of medical research to visit Aquatica, Burrows' oceanic lab with many tons of hi-tech equipment. The techies and support crew are restless, uncertain of their project's future. The GM mutant sharks are smarter than the blinkered scientist believes possible, and to cap it all there's a severe storm moving in on the facility. Into this supposedly unpredictable scenario the writing team, and director, Renny Harlin, bring some entirely predictable horror clichés. The talented cast get chewed on or eaten alive by sharks that break security to hunt in flooded corridors, stairwells and even a lift shaft. They attack the cook in his kitchen and the doctor in her bedroom. Every shock moment from decades of seafaring adventure and monster movies is revised - and enhanced - with CG images, although the familiar pecking order of victimisation is cannily subverted with surprising results.
   Terror is diluted in favour of a wholly camp script. LL Cool J (and what sort of name is that for a grown man, anyway?) shoulders much of the blame as the chief comic relief, guilty of overplaying this role and outstaying his welcome, but considerable impact is added to the suspense element simply by deploying sharks as science fictional predators in the manner of Alien. As, unlike the Great White shark of Jaws, which was just a lazy beast out for easy prey, these strange fish are inhumanly vengeful, turning on their human creators very much in the manner of Frankenstein's monster. In the end, though, whatever can be read into the filmmakers' attempts (sincere or cynical?) to ping our 21st century fears about what lurks in the murky waters of science and capitalism, Deep Blue Sea boils down to little more than an efficient Hollywood thrill ride.
previously published in VideoVista #15
Deep Blue Sea
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