After searching the television listings for a few weekends now, I’ve reached a revelation that is perhaps obvious to many of you. That revelation is this: Weekend television is crap. Seriously, it is the greatest collection of terrible viewing ever gathered into one place, with the possible exception of weekdays. Because the fact is, no one should be watching television on the weekend. In order for you to be at home watching television on a weekend, you should be one of the following: 1) sick, 2) watching sports, 3) handcuffed to a couch, or 4) hungover as hell. As a result, networks are catering to very specific needs, and one of those needs is to amuse/ease the suffering of the hungover.
It is an odd affliction, the hangover. How is it possible that something that causes us so much anguish can only be remedied by things that are equally horrible? From the food we consume to the movies we watch, Hangover Theater is proof positive that one must fight fire with fire. Of course in this week’s case, by “fire,” I mean a spectacularly terrible movie about genetically engineered mutated hyper-intelligent giant sharks that kill off a series of mediocre-at-best actors in some sort of Thunderdome-by-the-Sea research facility. It can be found on Cinemax this Sunday. It is, in a word, glorious.
Somewhere in the vast chasm of quality between Jaws and Shark Attack 3: Megalodon lies the weekend cable staple Deep Blue Sea. It’s one of the all-time great accidental B movies — I say accidental because I don’t believe Renny Harlin actually intended for it to be a B-grade movie. (Of course, therein lies the fundamental problem with Renny Harlin — he’s a B-movie director who doesn’t understand his place in the universe. Unfortunately, it appears that producers don’t always understand this either — call him a B-movie director who routinely receives A-movie funding). Deep Blue Sea has everything one could possibly hope for in a Hangover Movie — it’s just clever enough to be occasionally self-aware, but dumb enough to require a minimum of cognitive capacity. It’s visually stimulating enough to keep your attention, but with bad enough effects that you’re still able to mock it. Best of all, it’s comprised of average actors hamming their way through it as if their very lives depended on it — enabled by some staggeringly cheesy dialog.
But as with all good “Giant Something-or-Other Attacks!” movies, it starts off with science. Saffron Burrows (Time Code, Wing Commander) plays Dr. Susan McCallister, an ambitious and strangely emotionless geneticist who is on a mission to cure Alzheimer’s. To accomplish this tall task, she has retrofitted a WWII oceanic fueling station into a floating laboratory, creating something that looks like a space station that crashed into the sea. But, you see, this space station (cleverly named “Aquatica”) is where they conduct brilliant yet ethically suspect experiments on sharks — something to do with how the unique characteristics of shark brains are somehow the key to curing Alzheimer’s. Um… don’t get too bogged down in the science — I said it was clever, not intelligent.
Anyway, she is joined on the Aquatica by a rogue’s gallery of B- to C-movie actors who are there to assist with her experiments and ultimately to die hilariously. There’s Carter Blake (Thomas Jane - Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Crow: City of Angels), the shark wrangler — a tough, secretive ex-con who becomes the moral compass of the group. You know he’s tough because he squints a lot and speaks with a raspy voice. Also, for some reason he primarily speaks in nonsensical, kōan-like phrases that are supposed to sound deep. Also along for the ride is Michael Rappaport (Kiss of Death, Higher Learning), playing
Michael Rappaport Tom Scoggins. He’s either a physicist or a structural engineer — I could never really figure out which. His role is primarily to panic and talk like Eminem. Samuel L. Jackson (The Man, XXX: State of the Union) plays wealthy industrialist Russell Franklin, who is there to see how his money is being spent and to allude to some sort of misadventure involving a tragedy in the Himalayas. Seriously, it keeps getting brought up, even though it has absolutely no bearing on the film. Stellan Skarsgård (King Arthur, The Glass House) is a scientist who smokes a lot and is responsible for one of the single most ridiculous action sequences ever filmed. Finally, Jacqueline McKenzie complains a lot so you know her ass is getting eaten, and Aida Turturro dresses badly and is killed when, tragically, a shark throws a helicopter at her. Oh, and L.L. Cool J (Mindhunters, Rollerball) is the wise Negro chef who drinks cooking wine and talks to birds.
Once all the players have been gathered, a storm hits and the sharks (being genetically engineered mutated hyper-intelligent giant sharks, after all) break into the facility and begin to hunt down their captors. You see, through genetic testing, these sharks (in addition to now being the size of school buses) are so smart that they can understand human behavior, as well as successfully navigate their way through a labyrinthine laboratory. In fact, they are so brilliant that at one point the momma shark manages to grab someone strapped to a stretcher and then use that him as a human battering ram, smashing through six inch thick glass, and somehow blowing up a sizable portion of the facility as well. It is, without any question whatsoever, one of the most staggeringly idiotic, completely-beyond-reason scenes you are ever likely to see. In fact, it is a testament to these actors that they were able to participate in this movie without routinely bursting into hysterical laughter. From there on, the film dives head first into a series of more and more preposterous action sequences.
Deep Blue Sea is one of those movies where you’re never sure just how ironic it’s meant to be. I say this because, despite being completely insane, totally unbelievable, poorly acted and directed, and with Sci-Fi Channel level special effects; it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Between Jackson’s constant scene chewing, giant robo-sharks gruesomely tearing people into halves and quarters, Burrows’ completely unnecessary and objectifying underwear scene and so many explosions you’d think the place was filled with gasoline instead of seawater, Deep Blue Sea throws all logic and sanity out the window and takes off at a dead sprint, never looking back. The dialog is stilted, with lines so nonsensical that you’ll either cringe or burst into wild cackling fits. Saffron Burrows, despite actually being English, is so wooden she manages to sound like she’s impersonating an English accent. Samuel Jackson continues down the inexorable path that would eventually — nay, inevitably — lead him to Snakes on a Plane. Skarsgård hams his lines so beautifully I want to hug him. Only the man who delivered lines like “Finally, a man worth killing,” in the wretched King Arthur is qualified to deliver overwrought, sneering lines like, “Sharks are the oldest creatures on the planet… from a time when the world was just flesh… and teeth.” Thomas Jane… actually, no. Thomas Jane sucks in this just as much as he sucks in everything else. Fuck Thomas Jane.
Perhaps the most fun are the deaths. For all of its numerous, substantial and staggering faults, Deep Blue Sea boasts some of the most entertaining and outlandish death scenes this side of a Final Destination movie. I mean, a shark throws a helicopter at someone, people! What more do you need to know? You shouldn’t even finish the review, just go rent the damn movie right now. What, you want more? Well, there’s the human battering ram. There’s a shockingly violent and gory scene where someone gets their arm bitten off. A shark eats a parrot. Of course, the penultimate scene is (spoiler!) the death of Sam the Man Jackson. It’s possibly one of the greatest, and upon first viewing, unexpected deaths of all time. Hands down. I don’t want to ruin it for you poor sods that haven’t witnessed it. Just trust me. I’ve yet to lead you suffering bastards astray, and God help me I’m not going to start now. As a general rule, the deaths here are creative, loud, bloody and strangely gratifying.
As an added bonus, Deep Blue Sea also features some side-splittingly bad movie science, which just ratchets up the amusement factor. In one scene, when they are realizing just how goddamn brilliant the sharks are, McKenzie’s marine biologist comments, “sharks aren’t supposed to be able to swim backwards!” shortly after a shark does just that. Of course, no further explanation is needed - these sharks are so smart, they’ve learned how! Yes, biology or design was never the obstacle- sharks simply hadn’t figured out how yet. L.L. Cool J impresses Rappaport with a Def Poetry Jam take on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity - that actually has nothing to do with the Theory of Relativity. When Aida Turturro is killed by the helicopter, it somehow creates an explosion that was probably visible from the moon. It’s all part of the wonderfully wacky, stupid package.
The truth is that none of the things we usually look for in movies matter here. The plot, the characters’ names, their motivations, back stories, the direction, cinematography, editing, none of it. Deep Blue Sea is like one of those rare, nightmarishly good college nights out. You know, where you somehow combine some of the worst ideas you’ve ever had into one perfect, blacked-out night of debauchery. Shots of Jagermeister. Busch Light Draft by the pitcher. Jello shots made with gin and Aftershock. Maybe you throw down a Prairie Fire or two. Mix all that with mushroom pizza, a few convenience store hot dogs and some questionable leftover Chinese food. The night turns into a burning haze that creates a level of suffering you never thought possible. And yet, when you look back on that night, you look back on it fondly, despite its inherent awfulness. This is Deep Blue Sea — it doesn’t make any goddamn sense, the individual parts are all excruciatingly painful, and yet they combine into making a breathtakingly so-bad-it’s-good piece of Hangover goodness.
TK can be found wandering aimlessly through suburban Massachusetts, wondering how the hell he got there while yelling at the kids on his lawn. You can find him wasting his time at Uncooked Meat.
Deep Blue Sea / TK
Hangover Theater | April 24, 2008 | Comments ()