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Teeth of a dilemma

Review: Plenty of bite in 'Deep Blue Sea'

August 3, 1999
Web posted at: 12:50 p.m. EDT (1650 GMT)

By Reviewer Paul Clinton

(CNN) -- The classic "big fish" film -- "Jaws," which kept thousands of people away from the beach in the summer of 1975 -- featured just one great white shark. In the new thriller "Deep Blue Sea," you get three huge mako sharks that have been genetically altered to become bigger and smarter killing machines than before.

Directed by Renny Harlin, this scary deep-sea adventure gets your attention right off the bat with a frightening shark attack at sea. And if the big, nasty fish doesn't make you sit up and take notice, the three beautiful women in tiny bikinis will.

Paul's Pix: "Deep Blue Sea"
Windows Media 28K 80K

Theatrical preview for "Deep Blue Sea"
Real 28K 80K
Windows Media 28K 80K

But never mind. Nearly all the cute and perky people you meet in this feeding fest of a film end up as shark bait.

Shark-invested research

British actress Saffron Burrows turns in a credible performance as Dr. Susan McAlester, a scientist aboard a floating laboratory called Aquatica. Through the illegal and presumably unethical alteration of shark DNA, she's on the verge of developing a potential cure for Alzheimer's disease. The less said about that plot point the better, but the cure may be worse than the disease.

These enhanced killing machines are now five times smarter than before, and a lot bigger. This is when things get dicey for Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson), the financial backer of the project; Sherman "Preacher" Dudley (LL Cool J), the facility's main cook; and shark expert Carter Blake, played by up-and-coming leading man Thomas Jane. Rounding out the main cast is Michael Rapaport as Todd Scoggins, the facility's main engineer.

Director Harlin reportedly didn't want actors known for their work in larger-than-life action films, thinking it would be easier to view them as normal people in an abnormal environment. It works.

Fin for yourself

After an experiment goes horribly wrong, the sharks break out of their pens and into the research facility. This turns the cast into a smorgasbord and provides plenty of frightening possibilities which Harlin uses to great effect.

Some of the dialogue and a few of the situations here are laughable. But overall, this is one scary movie with a lot of humor laced in to relieve the tension.

The main element that sets this film apart from other "monsters are on the loose and killing people" films is the script by Duncan Kennedy, and Donna and Wayne Powers. All preconceived notions and expectations you may have about who'll get killed, who won't and when are turned upside down in "Deep Blue Sea."

Diving for dignity

Harlin needs a hit after the disastrous "Cutthroat Island" (1995) and the underwhelming "The Long Kiss Goodnight" (1996), which also starred Jackson. Now it looks as if he's struck action gold with "Deep Blue Sea."

This film would have been hard, if not impossible, to make just a few years ago. But with advances in special effects -- in this case a mixture of real sharks, animatronic sharks and digitally created sharks -- Harlin and his team show us a whole monster, swimming and interacting with the humans. The results might make you jump in your seat.

Although this film feels at times like a mixture of "The Deep," "Jaws" and "The Poseidon Adventure," there are enough unique plot twists and turns here to keep things interesting and the sharks are horrifying. They don't just eat their victims -- they chew!

If you like big summer action flicks with plenty of bite, check this one out. Then go out for a big sushi dinner. It'll make you feel better.

"Deep Blue Sea" is currently in theaters nationwide and is rated R for violence. Its running time is 100 minutes.

"Deep Blue Sea" is distributed by CNN Interactive sister company Warner Bros., a Time Warner property.

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Official 'Deep Blue Sea' site
Warner Bros. Movies
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