Deep Blue Sea (1999) – Renny Harlin (Dir.), Thomas Jane, Saffron Burrows, Samuel L. Jackson, L.L. Cool J
There was a period of time. It came just after shoulder pads, perms and cocaine and just before Y2K, 9/11 and cocaine. It was a simpler time. A time of Jurassic Park. Of Independence Day. And also of Waterworld. Of The Postman and the rest of the end of Kevin Costner’s career. We call these the ’90s’. Deep Blue Sea is one of the most untampered, beautifully awful pieces of this deplorably colorful era left to excavate. It was never particularly famous when it came out nor was it particularly memorable. It was a B-Movie dressed as a blockbuster immediately relegated to the “Wait, is this a porno?” section of the movie store (remember when we had those…oh the 90s. How quaint.) It is so stupidly by-the-numbers, yet, at the same time, so mentally crippled that the plot defies conventional logic, that it spirals in on itself, a self-consuming snake whittling itself down to its core: Die Hard, but with sharks.
You know, at some point in 1998, some executive, as he wiped the coke from his nose along with the scent of hooker-ass, announced, “Dudes, you know what would be totally wicked awesome? We make Jaws…but it’s like Jurassic Park…but, like, like, it’s fucking retarded. We could put rappers in it!” And so they did. They put hella rappers in it. Well, they put one, and, as my black/not-at-all-black friend Donnie put it “LL Cool J is a better actor than rapper.” I believed this to be impossible. How sorely incorrect I was. He’s a terrible rapper.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Andrew, you haven’t done the game in a while now? Are you backing out?” Well, read my article on Up, you bastards. It’s been a hard week. I needed a pick-me-up. So, on a fateful Friday night, my roomies declared that we were going to begin a drinking game. After shredding the Flix of Net, scrutinizing every single option, we settled on either Deep Blue Sea or Fern Gully. I didn’t rip the flesh from my face, so it’s safe to say we didn’t watch Fern “Hey, it’s a bus ride in the mid-nineties, let’s watch this. OVER AND OVER AGAIN” Gully. Same goes for Outbreak. Fuck that movie.
The rules of the game were simple. Drink every time someone says ‘shark’ or ‘research’. Drink twice every time someone dies. Things got…stupid. But, through the haze of alcoholic bliss, a few bizarrely enlightening nuggets presented themselves, like a peacock readying to mate. And, like the wooed female, I turned around, bent over and… Wait. Let’s change the subject. Firstly, this movie is a graveyard of failed careers. LL Cool J? Other than those damn Are We There Yet movies and Friday, he hasn’t done…any…well…wait…I’m sorry, my editor is informing me that I am thinking of Ice Cube and that I am, in fact, a dirty whorish racist. My apologies to the african-american community. In that case, fuck LL Cool J. He can continue playing a cop on that one Law and Order: SVU (read: rape show) and leave his action movies to…wait…I’m sorry again, I’ve been informed that I am in fact thinking of Ice T. Well…shit. Toys. He was in Toys. Fuck all of you.
Who else graces this tombstone of artistic talent with their presence? We have Thomas “If They Ask You to Play the Punisher, Say No, Kids” Jane, sporting what can only be described as a pubic bleach job for a hairdo. Next we have Michael Rapaport, a man who has made a career of portraying douchey Brooklyn cops, known for their brute force and lack of wits, playing the math nerd. It was like hearing Tony Soprano yelling, “It’s da fuckin’ NEUTRONS. Da NEUTRONS, you cocksucker. They’re interacting ‘n’ shit.” Literally every word that tumbles forth from that frothy spit bucket of a gritty accent-generator he calls a mouth is laughably unbearable. Like hearing a two year old giving the weather…you just want to give them a medal for trying. They’re so goddamn precious you want to eat them. But you can’t. Because it isn’t legal. Yet…
Who else? Saffron “Who the fuck?” Burrows, her only non-bland quality being the hilarious misnomer that is her first name. She apparently attended the ‘Block of Wood’ Acting School, London branch, which includes such greats as David Carradine, Orlando Bloom and, of course, Keanu Reeves, the Marlon Brando of Pine, the Laurence Olivier of Oak, the Sidney Poitier of Larch. Point is: she’s terrible. In fact, the only two people in this movie who ever went on to make anything of their careers were Samuel L. Jackson (fucking duh) and Stellan “Really?” Skarsgaard. That guy is in everything. He’s like a cinematic ninja, in that he moves his mouth and incorrect sounds come out. Who would have known the dude who gets his arm bitten off by a shark, then dropped from a helicopter into the water, then grabbed by a shark and, for some sadistic, unknown reason, smashes his still-screaming body into the observation room, cracking glass two-feet thick as though it’s nothing more than cling film, would make it as far as The Avengers? Good on him.
So, you might ask, what is the plot of this hot mess? Well, apparently the cure for Alzheimer’s has been discovered: shark brains. So, what do they do? Breed sharks with ‘enlarged crania’ to harvest said miracle BS. Well, super-smart sharks are apparently fucking supermen. Not only do they figure out how to systematically destroy all of the cameras in their pen in a perfectly coordinated attack (even though it’s actually impossible for them to comprehend what a camera is because there is no way for them to see the video screen and…ugh…ah…blood pressure…rising…), but they also discover how to overcome their fucking physiology. In a vain, penis-in-the-ear attempt to emulate the holy grail of “Why Did We Try To Play God?” movies Jurassic Park, they declare “they’ve learned how to swim backwards!” No. They fucking haven’t. Sharks. Cannot. Swim. Backwards. It’s fucking impossible. As in: not possible. They can’t do it. They don’t have the muscles, the fins, the fucking WHATEVER. THEY CANNOT SWIM BACKWARDS.
I don’t want to hear another word about it.
However, in between the bouts of complete refusal to understand how small things like ‘reality’ work, this movie has a couple of incredibly surprising moments. First, LL Cool J, as the token actor-cum-rapper-with-a-pet-parrot-and-a-street-wise-attitude-that-comes-in-handy, you know, like in every movie, is left almost completely alone. All those other assholes are running around sinking the damn facility while Mr. J is constantly making desserts. Why only desserts? Fuck you, that’s why. And then he fights a shark. In his kitchen. And then he blows it up. With fire. How does he escape the blast? By diving underwater. You know…where the shark is…but the shark gets killed by the fire…but LL Cool J doesn’t…because he’s underwater…like the shark…but the shark gets killed by the fire…and he doesn’t because he’s underwater…
Sorry. I have to take a moment to mop up the blood that just shot out of my nose. I believe, if we’re keeping count, that’s aneurism number 2. Anyway, structurally, that is rarely done. Usually all the survivors are together, but Mr. J is the odd one out. And he’s black. And he doesn’t die. Innovative. I guess. Also, there’s the moment of Samuel L. Jackson’s death. I will not ruin it for you because it is a moment of such cinematic brilliance that it deserves to be sat next to such greats as ‘That Dude That Gets Shot in the Head In the Car” in Pulp Fiction and “Brad Pitt Gets Shot in the Face” in Burn After Reading. It’s that level of brilliance. Along those lines, the british bitch gets ate in the climax of the film. Her plan? Jump in the water with a cut to lure the shark towards her with no discernible escape route. Yes. It is as stupid as it sounds.
This movie is painfully ignorant of taste, of quality, of advanced intelligence. Sometimes you need that, in direct contrast to weep-fests like Up. Yes, I should have watched something challenging instead. But, you know what, sometimes you’re not in the mood to watch Willem Dafoe rape Charlotte Gainsborg with devil wolves and whatnot. So…in conclusion…shut up and drink.