The B-Movie Bungalow Presents: Deep Blue Sea (1999)

Renny Harlin

Saffron Burrows - Dr. Susan McAlister
Thomas Jane - Carter Blake
LL Cool J - Preacher
Samuel L. Jackson - Russell Franklin
Michael Rapaport - Thomas Scoggins
Jacqueline McKenzie - Dr. Janice Higgins
Stellan Skarsgaard - Jim Whitlock
Aida Turturro - Brenda Kerns

Genre - Thriller/Horror/Science Fiction/B-Movie/Sharks

Running Time - 104 Minutes

Dr. Susan McAlister (Saffron Burrows) has been busy working on finding a cure for Alzheimer's at a research center called Aquatica, a former Navy base located in the middle of the ocean. Using sharks [since they seem immune to the experiments done on them], Susan is hoping to find an enzyme that will prove her research was no in vain. However, a problem occurs when one of those tested sharks escapes Aquatica. Before her project gets shut down for this careless mistake, Susan desperately convinces the funder of her research, Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson), to give her 48 hours to find the shark and prove to him that she's getting closer to a cure. Russell agrees, but goes with Susan to Aquatica to see the research himself with his own eyes.

After a couple of tests, Russell and Susan see that the experiments Susan has been conducting are actually working when they revive some dead brain tissue. Before they can really celebrate, another test shark chews off the arm of one of Susan's scientist helpers, Jim Whitlock (
Stellan Skarsgaard). As they try to fly him to a hospital via helicopter, the test sharks attack the helicopter and use Jim's injured body to shatter one of Aquatica's windows. As gallons of ocean water now flood the facility, the sharks begin to experiment on the humans who have been studying them.

As the scientists in Aquatica try to survive, Susan realizes that manipulating the shark's DNA during her experiments has actually increased their brain sizes [
which she did purposely to harvest enzymes to fight Alzheimer's], which have increased the sharks' intelligence. The scientists, afraid of drowning or getting eaten by smart sharks, decide to make their way to the top of Aquatica to stop the sharks' plan: to escape into the ocean to take it over.



- The direction. DEEP BLUE SEA isn't the greatest shark film out, but it's an entertaining one for many reasons. One of those reasons happen to be Renny Harlin's energetic direction of the film. Best known for his films like A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER, CLIFFHANGER, and THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT, Harlin may not be the best director in cinema history but he knows how to create good action and thrills visually.

For a silly B-movie, there's genuine suspense and tension once the sharks start having fun with our characters. The chase scenes are tense and somewhat nail-biting. The action sequences and special effects [not including the sharks] are visualized really well. I really like the entire sequence where the sharks begin to destroy Aquatica. You know the characters are about to be shark bait with super smart sharks knowing exactly how to trap them. And the tension never eases up after that due to Harlin's knowing eye.

There are great jump moments that you wouldn't expect. The pacing is pretty much at a breakneck pace during the last two acts, which keeps the audience from getting bored [and probably think about how stupid the story really is]. I also like that Harlin injected humor during some of the visuals, so the audience can breathe a bit as well as rightfully laugh at the entire situation. The picture also looks pretty darn good and the editing is well done. I think DEEP BLUE SEA is one of Harlin's better directed efforts, as he takes a really silly movie and injects a ton of fun visually into it. It's obvious Harlin was having fun directing the actors in this movie, which makes the viewing experience a good one.

- The acting. While it won't set the world on fire, the actors carry the film quite well. Saffron Burrows is okay as the female lead, Dr. Susan McAlister. Her character is not really likeable, but Burrows tries to make Susan somewhat sympathetic. Burrows does have quite the lovely British accent though and looks great in bras and panties. Thomas Jane is somewhat better as the male lead, Carter Blake. He sort of plays a one-note character, but makes Carter somewhat of a bad ass quite believably. Jane also plays a convincing hero well. Always been a fan of Thomas Jane and I liked him here.

The supporting actors are more entertaining for me in DEEP BLUE SEA. LL Cool J is great as comic relief, Preacher. He sort of plays the same character he did in 1998's HALLOWEEN: H20, which would usually be an issue, but it actually works in this film. LL Cool J comes across as very likeable, funny, and sympathetic. Probably the best actor and character in the film. Samuel L. Jackson is also great as the more serious Russell Franklin. Jackson always brings the awesome, and his exit is one of the film's major highlights. Stellan Skarsgard is also very cool as the poor Jim Whitlock. I also liked Michael Rappaport as well, as he also brings the funny. An interesting cast of actors that manage to gel really well with each other, and are self-aware enough to make DEEP BLUE SEA a lot of fun to watch by being serious and silly all at once.

- The silly premise. Cinema snobs would really hate this dumb premise, but viewers like me really love it - especially since screenwriters Duncan Kennedy, Donna Powers & Wayne Powers manage to balance the tense, humorous, and serious moments pretty well. The plot is so over-the-top, that you really can't take it serious. Super smart sharks destroying their 'prison', knowing exactly how to escape while eating those in their way? Who comes up with stuff like this, except crazy people and me? If it wasn't for the cast, DEEP BLUE SEA would fit in perfectly as a Saturday Night feature on the SyFy Channel. Even though the narrative does try to give a serious, logical explanation for what's going on, the film still comes across as silly. But that's what makes the film so good.

The fact is, the screenwriters know that their premise is stupid and actually relishes in that fact. The narrative never takes itself all that seriously and would rather have fun with the story rather than give the audience a thinking man's movie. DEEP BLUE SEA is nothing but popcorn entertainment where you need to leave your brain at the door before watching it, and it totally works. The film doesn't want to recreate or emulate JAWS, which is obviously inspired by somewhat. JAWS was a serious film meant to creep audiences out. DEEP BLUE SEA is a B-movie that wants to entertain you and make you laugh at how ridiculous the whole deal is. It wants to have its own identity and you got to respect the filmmakers for that. While silly, the premise is still a great one because you know it'll be hard to make boring - which DEEP BLUE SEA never is.

- Pretty unpredictable demises. The characters in DEEP BLUE SEA are in the film to be victims for the sharks. Nothing more, nothing less. If they actually had depth to them, it'd be a different story. But they don't, so they're nothing but chum for these bloodthirsty fish.

That being said, it makes for good entertainment and keeps the film's deaths pretty unpredictable. Good people die. Bad people die. And in not in the order you would probably imagine. You can look at the cast list and tell yourself, "So and so will live because they're a pretty big star, while this lesser known person will die because no one knows who they are." This may happen in many other films, but DEEP BLUE SEA throws that out the door. If you haven't watched this yet for whatever reason, you'd be surprised by who makes it out alive. Some big name actors and/or actresses die pretty early into the film - and in really surprising ways that come across as more funny than anything. In fact, one actor in particular gets a memorable death that comes out of nowhere after they deliver a strong monologue that would make you believe they're going to be one of the people who will survive by the end of the film. Not knowing who will live or die, and in what order, makes the film pretty fun.

- Not much depth. As much as the shallowness of DEEP BLUE SEA makes the film pure poporn entertainment, the film doesn't have much depth. I don't mind that the situation itself is shallow, because that's the fun part. But at least the characters should be somewhat fleshed out so we can care about them. Only a random few get this treatment. Susan is doing research to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease and doesn't want the sharks hurt, even when they try to kill her crew, because she's afraid her research would be for nothing. That makes her somewhat unlikeable, but at least she has a clear motive and you understand her character. Preacher loves his bird and tries to save him from the sharks. When the bird suffers a horrible fate, Preacher takes an active role in fighting the sharks and finding the rest of the survivors to band together. He's also very self-aware about his potential fate, feeling that he won't survive because black people don't live at the end of horror movies. Preacher happens to be the most fleshed out character and the most likeable. The other characters are given moments, but you don't know much about them besides they're stereotypical personalities.

Sure, depth shouldn't matter in a film like DEEP BLUE SEA. But you still need to care about the characters you write about for the audience to care about them while watching them. While it's fun to watch one-dimensional characters get eaten by sharks, I would like to feel something for them - positive or negative.

- The CGI sharks. Probably what really brings DEEP BLUE SEA down for me are the sharks themselves. I understand that, for the story to work, the sharks had to be computer generated. I'm totally fine with that. But after 13 years, the effects have not dated well at all and sometimes take you out of the film. The mechanical sharks used are fine and look pretty good. But when you see the sharks smash into things and attack our characters in the water, the animated sharks just look really silly and end up being more funny than thrilling. This was probably okay in 1999, but CGI has come a long way since then. These villains stick out like a sore thumb - and not in a good way at all. I've seen sharks on SyFy Channel films that look more realistic than these do.

DEEP BLUE SEA gets compared to JAWS due to the villains being bloodthirsty sharks, but it really has more in common with ALIEN in how the film presents itself. It's cliche and not all that original, but it's still an entertaining film that will probably have you laughing and jumping at the same time. While the CGI isn't great and the film doesn't have much depth for its characters [you're really not going to give a damn about most of them], at least it has very good direction by Renny Harlin, solid enough acting, and unpredictable moments that make it very memorable. All in all, DEEP BLUE SEA is a good B-movie and pure popcorn entertainment that you'll probably want to watch more than once with your friends. Don't take the film too seriously and you'll have a good time. Isn't that the point of watching cinema anyway?

3 Howls Outta 4


  1. haven't seen in a while but from what I remember, I agree with you. It's a nice fun flick with lots of great one-liners, funny performance (LL rocks!) and some cool surprises.
    I really need to rewatch this soon.

    1. Yeah, it's still a lot of fun. LL Cool J is definitely the highlight of the film, next to a certain actor's exit.

  2. Great write-up!

    Also the song Deepest-Bluest by LL Cool J was hilariously bad but catchy.

    1. Thanks, Ty! And yeah, I should have posted that video. It is pretty stupid, yet entertaining. Always dug LL's music career.

  3. I love this movie more than life itself. It has been a favorite since that first time seeing it in the theater and remains a go-to film for whenever I just want to a fun time with an old friend.

    1. Ha ha! Yeah, this is still a cool flick. I never understood the hate for it. It's just a popcorn flick to watch with friends who get it. Glad to know you like this one as well. Probably the best shark film next to the original JAWS.

  4. I did buy the DVD, but mostly because Thomas Jane is in it. He was about the only actor in the film who didn't have atrocious dialog to utter, or at least not as much. But yeah, there were some fun scenes here, but overall, it was a pretty bad movie experience for me. I think me a girlfriend saw both this and the even crappier HAUNTING remake the same evening? Can't remember, but do remember it was crappy.

    Also, this lady wouldn't shut up through the entire movie, so that didn't make the experience any better. Just screamin out loud things like, "Don't kill my LL! Don't kill my LL!" "Watch out LL! Don't you go in there, LL!" And on and on, lol.

    I'd love to see a version of MEG finally surface, though. No doubt if DEEP BLUE SEA had been successful and the market wasn't flooded with these awful straight to cable shark flicks, we may actually have seen it by now. Maybe.

    1. I'd take DEEP BLUE SEA over THE HAUNTING remake any day of the week. And I hate when people talk during the film. I had that same issue with Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN 2. I had to go see it twice just to review it properly. Pissed me off.

      Sad about MEG.


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