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TTC: “Deep Blue Sea” (1999)

“I hate to interrupt this moment of burgeoning intimacy, but can we get the fuck out of here?” ~~Preacher

It’s fair to assume that, at any given moment in life, when someone utters the words “as a side effect, the sharks got smarter,” many cans of whoop-ass are about to be opened … and it won’t be the bipeds with the opposable thumbs who are popping the tabs. No, they’ll be the ones screeching like banshees, churning water with all the fluidity, grace and power of drunken cows. Or they’ll be chum.

As “Deep Blue Sea” progresses, the Foolish Scientists/Corporate Bigwigs/Token Brothers aboard the isolated ship Aquatica, a floating facility that uses Mako sharks’ brains for Alzheimer’s research, find themselves in both situations, sometimes simultaneously. Boy oh boy what cheerfully cheesy fun it is to watch. Hardly “Jaws,” or even “Jaws XI: I Know Who You Ate 25 Years Ago,” Renny Harlin’s CGI-enhanced battle royale between sharks and humans is terrifically terrible fun of the highest order — heavy on effects and state-the-obvious dialogue and happily light on subtlety. In point of fact, “hammy” might be the watchword, since subtle movies don’t ordinarily have people (LL Cool J, renaissance man extraordinaire) go around saying things like “Ooh, I’m done! Brothers never make it out of situations like this! Not ever!” Hating a movie this comically aware of its own gouda-ness is a capital crime.

And bless my dairy-gulping heart there’s plenty more where that came from in “Deep Blue Sea.” The plot promises as much and delivers: Aquatica floats way, way out in the ocean, so far that it might be appropriate to apply the “Alien” tagline to the ocean (i.e., scream if you want, but it’ll just tell the sharks where you are). Dr. Sarah McAllister (Saffron Burrows in a breath-taking don’t-quit-your-day-job role) is a researcher hoping to woo wealthy businessman Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson) to invest in her highly controversial research: She’s injecting shark’s brains with a protein complex to determine if she can reanimate brain cells lost to Alzheimer’s. Her crack team — all brightly capable of whipping out gems like “Beneath this glassy surface, a world of gliding monsters” — includes Carter (Thomas Jane), a surly shark wrangler; project leader Jim “I’m So Smart I Piss into the Wind” Whitlock (Stellan Skarsgård); Jim’s main squeeze Janice (Jacqueline McKenzie); an engineer, Tom (Michael Rapaport); and the scripture-quoting chef “Preacher” (LL Cool J), whom we intuitively understand to be 1,921 times smarter than the researchers fannying about with genetically manipulating shark brains.

As detailed earlier, naturally everything goes whop-jollyed* 15-20 minutes into “Deep Blue Sea” (proof of the age-old adage: “Make sharks smarter and they’ll, like, eat you and stuff”). The makos, not surprisingly, don’t relish getting brain injections and being cooped up in pens, so they use those big new brains to outsmart the humans, eat a few of them — wouldn’t get emotionally attached to too many characters if I were you — and just toy around with the rest. This leads to quite a few heated arguments (most aimed at Dr. McAllister, because didn’t that “stupid bitch” know genetic testing is dangerous?), (sadly) no Biblical couplings, a smidge of PG-themed nudity and many thrilling chase scenes that mostly the sharks win, though sometimes they run the risk of getting blown into Mako McNuggets. The sharks, thanks to CGI, don’t look even the weensiest bit real; in a movie like this, however, that works in the director’s favor. Besides, does reality honestly belong in a movie where someone gets trapped inside an oven and the shark’s nose sets the dial to “broil”?

No, no, a million times no. Reality would be the ruination of “Deep Blue Sea.” Director Renny Harlin (he’s partial to nonsensical thrillers) knows this; thus, he helpfully has his actors explain all the plot points early, as if to get them out of the way so we can enjoy the shark-on-human action fest we’ve signed on for. The actors — particularly LL Cool J, likable in any part but especially funny as Preacher, and Jane, who looks alternately either very turned on or very constipated — only add to the salty fun. Bring on the sequel, says I.

*Or “wrong” to you non-Southerners.

21 Responses

  1. A mutherfucking shark ate me! – Samuel L. Jackson

  2. lol damn Fitz beat me to it..Seriously every time now i think of Deep Blue Sea, I think of that Dave Chappelle skit.

    • Blasted thing ruins that part of the film for me — can’t be sufficiently upset about SLJ’s, uh, exit scene, what with all the hysterical laughter coming outta me!

  3. Your reviews really do put the rest of us to shame. “Mako McNuggets” where do you come up with them, I bet the writers wish they had come up with that one. You don’t mind a film being bad if it is fun, it is when they are bad and tedious that there is a problem, Transformers II being the prime example.

  4. I have seen this movie five or six times and it never gets old. I love that LL Cool J’s chef is clearly more expertly-trained at shark survival than, well most of the ensemble with their… y’know shark expertise. Though apparently that’s just because the audience loved him in the test screenings – he was originally supposed to die, if I recall.

  5. my favorite part has to be the physics defying moment where the shark somehow uses the scientist strapped to a gurney to break glass that must be at least a foot thick.

    one thing that would have made this one more tolerable is if michael rappaport had been eaten in the first 30 seconds. can’t stand that guy in anything not called True Romance, and even then…it’s tough…

    • (I’m stealing this comment response method from Mad Hatter.)

      @ Fandango – Stop, or you’re going to make my head even bigger! (It’s already so oversized 95% of hats I try on don’t fit it.) No idea where I pulled that phrase from. “Deep Blue Sea” is nothing else if it ain’t good, dumb fun.

      @ Darren – Keeping LL alive was the best choice the director ever made. No contest, he’s the most entertaining character in this thing.

      @ Robot – Rapaport has this grating quality that comes through in every character he plays. The end he came to was NOT the end he deserved … I was hoping for more creativity, more blood, more pain!

  6. I’m late on this one… the 3 things that take me out of this film are:
    1. The shark getting SLJ.
    2. The guy on the gurney busting through the glass.
    3. And LLCoolJ playing Shipwreck from G.I.Joe… parrot and all.
    Other than that, this flick is fun. I watch it every time it’s on.
    How bout this one:
    “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. I’ve had it with these mutha f-ing genetically engineered sharks on this mutha f-ing deep sea underwater science facility!” – SLJ
    No? OK! 🙂

    • Those are three things that take me in! I love how gloriously UNsubtle the director was about hinting SLJ was going to bite it, what with Thomas Jane saying “wouldn’t get that close if I were you.”

  7. But will the movie make it to anyone’s desert island? We will find out in a few weeks!

    BTW: That explains the head shot you use for the photo. Do you look more like this in real life? http://www.cgnews.com/wp-content/uploads/aiw_red_queen.jpg

  8. Yeah, what kind of MENSA derived think tank (little aquatic humor comes in nicely) came up with the winning idea of making sharks bigger and smarter so that….hahaha…I couldn’t keep from thinking about the premise without laughing so very hard

    —[Interior of some shoddy science lab]—
    Doctor 1: “You know sharks brains really haven’t been tapped for genetic research”

    Doctor 2: “Well that’s because they have tiny brains”

    Doctor 1: “How about we find a way to make them waaaay bigger and therefore smarter then harvest their untold miracles without any prior evidence showing it will work…then we could get lunch and not talk about why this might be a bad idea”

    Doctor 2: “Sounds good to me, I mean we’re scientists, right? What could go wrong?”

    • That premise — I think you just coined the phrase The We’re Scientists, so What Could Go Wrong? Premise — has been the basis for many a good, bad ugly movie. Somehow, that idea never gets old.

  9. This used to be on my ten worst of all time, but upon repeat viewings I find it pretty humorous now. I have to go see if I ever reviewed it. I’m pretty sure I did and didn’t give it any stars. teehee

  10. […] Elektra…but that’s still a pretty big stretch. I’d like to refer you briefly to a write-up a friend of mine did for a similarly dumb movie that really can be tolerable if you either check your brain at the door, […]

  11. […] Elektra…but that’s still a pretty big stretch. I’d like to refer you briefly to a write-up a friend of mine did for a similarly dumb movie (which she still enjoys) that really can be tolerable if you either A.) […]

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