Bloody, yes, but it bites

Movie: Deep Blue Sea

Deep Blue Sea
Length: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: 1999-07-28
Cast: Saffron Burrows, LL Cool J, Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Renny Harlin
Screenwriter: Duncan Kennedy, Donna Powers, Wayne Powers
Music Score: Trevor Rabin
WorkNameSort: Deep Blue Sea
Our Rating: 2.50

Samuel L. Jackson, as the buttoned-down money man responsible for funding the floating lab Aquatica, is fed up with the squabbling of fellow survivors of a frightening disaster at sea. It's about midway through underwater thriller "Deep Blue Sea" when he launches into a powerhouse let's-stick-together speech, bloated with anecdotes about how he once survived an avalanche.

It's a solemn, self-serious talk, one that goes on and on until ... a rather colorful interruption, the ugly particulars of which ought not to be revealed.

The surprise response to Franklin's pompous speech, though, inadvertently makes for one of the funniest moments in "Deep Blue Sea," a glossy horror picture that's equal parts "Jaws," "Jurassic Park" and "Alien," absent the pure pop style and sheer terror of those films.

The latest big-budget adventure from director Renny Harlin (so capable on "The Long Kiss Goodnight," so incompetent on "Cutthroat Island") opens with a lot of mumbo jumbo about the Alzheimer's Disease research that unethical scientist Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows) is conducting. She's been genetically re-engineering the DNA of mako sharks, making them smarter and all the better for extracting brain tissue for her experiments.

As a result, they're larger, faster and more skilled in the art of predatory relationships than their relatives. And these sharks, like McAlester's motley crew of scientists and laborers, are tired of being used in the name of science. You can see where this is going.

Nature, as always, strikes back with a vengeance, unleashing a tropical storm that sends three 8,000-pound makos after any unfortunate survivors. A medical helicopter's crash into the facility results in fiery explosions that rock the top of the rig. Down below, the carnage is just beginning.

Harlin follows the successful formula of other crazed-animal movies: They come, they kill, they leave. Along the way, Jackson, Burrows, hunky shark wrangler Thomas Jane, facility engineer Michael Rapaport, a funny LL Cool J as the ship's self-effacing cook, and other humans resembling shark bait variously fight and unite to outwit the enemy.

Audiences out for blood will get what they want: a beheading, a body severed at the waist, an arm ripped from its shoulder. Others, though, may find "Deep Blue Sea" strangely monotonous, with distressingly few chuckles (intentional and not) as funny as Jackson's abruptly discontinued rallying of the troops. Thank the shark for that bit of levity.