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Laramie Movie Scope:
Deep Blue Sea

A pretty good Jaws ripoff

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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July 31, 1999 -- "Jaws" was a classic, a movie that made a generation stay out of the water. Ever since then Hollywood has been trying to duplicate its success to no avail. Few of those attempts are as good as "Deep Blue Sea."

This shark thriller has plenty of suspense and it'll give you a couple of pretty high-voltage jolts, too. Directed by Renny Harlin, who directed a couple of entertaining films, "Cutthroat Island" and "The Long Kiss Goodnight," which weren't commercially successful following his popular "Cliffhanger," has once again made a thriller with some teeth in it.

The silly plot has to do with scientists genetically engineering sharks to give them large brains to facilitate development of an anti-Alzheimer's disease drug. Very large, very fast, and very smart sharks attack the crew of a research lab after a series of highly improbable events leads to the lab blowing up real good.

The viewer soon gets caught up in the struggle to survive in the shark-infested, sinking lab. In addition to "Jaws," there are obvious similarities to "The Abyss" and "Aliens." Come to think of it, that's pretty good company. The special effects aren't all that great, including the animatronic sharks. There isn't much in the way of character development, but the film keeps you right on the edge of your seat.

One of the things I liked about the film is the way it plays with the clichés of the genre. At one point a black character says something like "brothers don't ever survive these kinds of situations," alluding to the fact that black characters are expendable in this genre. The writers, Duncan Kennedy and Wayne Powers, also toy with the expectations of the audience. You might think you know which characters are going to die next because of action film conventions, but there are some surprises.

The surprises keep you guessing and that adds to the suspense, and fun of this film. There were a couple of scenes in this film that almost made me jump right out of my seat. Part of that shock is because I wasn't quite sure when or how the attacks were going to come. At the same time, there's some humor in the film too along with gory mutilations.

Samuel L. Jackson (who also appeared in Harlin's "The Long Kiss Goodnight") stars as the lab's financial backer, Russell Franklin, along with Thomas Jane ("The Thin Red Line") who plays ex-con shark wrangler, Carter Blake, the story's dashing hero. Saffron Burrows ("Circle of Friends") plays Dr. Susan McAlester, the Dr. Frankenstein of the story. She has lips the size of bananas. I wonder if those are natural or enhanced. LL Cool J, (AKA James Todd Smith of "Halloween H20") plays Sherman "Preacher" Dudley. He also sings a solid rap number over the closing credits. LL Cool J does a good job with a choice part, probably the most interesting character in the film. The film rates a B, by the way.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 1999 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]