The chief selling point for this new shark thriller is evident from the large-size ads depicting its star Halle Berry in a brightly colored bikini. But while comely, scantily clad females have long been a staple of the genre—remember the nude victim in the first scene of Jaws?—they’re not usually Academy Award winners.
Directed by John Stockwell, who has more than a little experience in the open water thanks to Into the Blue and Blue Crush, the film is essentially the sort of garden variety B-movie easily found on late night cable, only with a better cast, higher production values and, unfortunately, ponderously sluggish pacing and self-seriousness that prevents it from being the slightest bit fun. It’s now receiving a token theatrical release before showing up on DVD late next month.
The central character of this Cape Town, South Africa-set film is Kate (Berry), a “shark whisperer” who becomes traumatized after her longtime fellow diver (Sizwe Msufu) becomes a tasty snack for a Great White during a risky dive that she insisted upon. A year later, her tourist boat ride business near bankruptcy, she reluctantly agrees to take a boorish, rich English businessman (Ralph Brown) and his teenage son (Luke Tyler) out to dive with the sharks. Only he insists on their doing it outside of the protective metal cage.
Tensions quickly start to flare: between Kate and her ex-boyfriend (Olivier Martinez) who has come along for the ride; between her and her obnoxious client who insists on taking foolish risks; and between the tycoon and his emotionally neglected son.
It’s all, of course, an excuse for the depiction of hairy encounters with the endlessly photogenic, carnivorous creatures of the deep who never fail to fulfill their ominous role. But while there are several excitingly well-executed such sequences, the climax, set during a torrential squall, is more redolent of The Perfect Storm and is so confusingly shot and edited that it’s hard to tell what’s happening to whom.
But there are ample visual compensations, including the gorgeous scenery and…did I mention that Halle Berry in a bikini?
The actress goes through her emotionally and physically grueling paces with admirable commitment, but it’s hard not to lament that her talent is being wasted in such a lightweight vehicle. She clearly did get something out of the deal, however--she and her co-star, the French heartthrob Martinez, have since gotten engaged. Audiences will have no such compensation.