Some guilty pleasures I’m barely comfortable admitting to — corn chips in bologna sandwiches, singing Backstreet Boys in the shower. But one I’m completely at ease with is my love of action movies that have fun with themselves, like Deep Blue Sea. I celebrate the flick — having viewed it a couple dozen times — I quote it freely (“You ate my bird!”), and I’ve even debated getting a fish just so I could name its tank Aquatica. My love for Deep Blue Sea (henceforth referred to as DBS) comes in spite of the fact that I hate sharks. Petrified of them! Shark Week guarantees that I’m catching up on my reading for seven days.
If you’ve seen DBS, then you know why legions of action fans believe it to be the definition of high-budget Hollywood escapist fun. The action is nonstop, the scenery gets chewed constantly by both the actors and their aquatic antagonists, and the death scenes are incredibly creative. Shark movies were born with and perfected by Jaws, so in order to stand out in any way and not just be some other silly shark movie you need to make it feel like a party, a special-effects-packed underwater-death party that must have been as fun to make as it is to watch. So what exactly makes DBS so endearing?
1. The Premise
Sharks have their brains genetically altered in order to allow humans to harvest a chemical that will in turn produce a serum that can cure Alzheimer’s disease, only to then have these super-sharks rebel and attack the humans. “Brilliant” is not a strong enough word. From the get-go, the screenwriters must have had a blast writing this, recklessly concocting pseudoscience and grizzled deaths at will. Without paying heed to the limitations of the real world, the fun comes through. Every scene is joyous, whether joyously scary or joyously funny.
2. The Perfect Director
DBS is helmed by Renny Harlin, a director whose many action movies have a dangerously addictive absurdity factor. A Harlin movie never dares dance with reality: they begin with an outlandish premise — Andrew Dice Clay as an action star (The Adventures of Ford Fairlane), Geena Davis as a housewife turned sleeper-agent killing machine (The Long Kiss Goodnight) — then stack the odds against our heroes, kick open the floodgates of absurdity, and let the fun begin. Harlin is basically a stunt choreographer who moonlights as a party planner, making him the perfect choice to helm a man-versus-megashark party.
3. Samuel L. Jackson’s Demise
Or, as it’s also known, the Greatest Scene Ever Filmed, Ever. Jackson loves a good death scene, but he sure did have a good time with his DBS demise. Not even halfway through the movie, Jackson is rallying the troops, who are under attack from the sharks, with the type of rousing speech that only Jackson can give, when a shark jumps up, eats Jackson, and that’s that. He knows what’s coming, and yet Jackson gives his speech like he’s rallying the troops at Normandy.
4. LL Cool J’s Theme Song
Yes, LL Cool J, one of the better rappers turned actors (I call them “raptors”), has appeared in several movies, but DBS is his finest work, allowing him to take it over the top as a recovering alcoholic preacher turned galley chef (with a parrot for a sidekick) who fights sharks in his kitchen and survives. Who wouldn’t be having the time of his or her life here? But most importantly, LL also gets to enjoy himself by writing and singing the movie’s theme song, “Deepest Bluest,” which boasts lyrics like “Deepest, bluest. My hat is like a shark’s fin.” That’s poetry in ocean motion. Oceanographic pioneer Jacques-Yves Cousteau himself never gave us anything as poignant or profound.
5. The Acting
Entertainers often say that they want the fun they had on set to come across to viewers. Mission accomplished. Jackson’s demise, for example, is a tour de force of earnest acting: I can’t help but wonder how anyone kept a straight face. Look at the conviction and intense focus on the face of Thomas Jane — that’s acting. He knows what’s coming, yet plays it straight. Bravo, gents.
Deep Blue Sea is what Snakes on a Plane wanted to be and should have been: the rare opportunity for audiences to be scared by and laugh with a movie that knew what it was and what it wanted to be. For all the excitement and excess it offers, DBS is a movie that’s as fun to watch as it must have been to make. Like one of those deep-fried stuffed-crust cheeseburger pizzas. It doesn’t have to be good for me for it to be fun to make and eat. The tagline on the DBS poster is “Bigger. Smarter. Faster. Meaner.” They left off “Funner.”
Nick Stevens, co-host of AMC’s Action Pack (Wednesdays, at 8pm | 7C), tries to make funny about movies, pop culture, and sports as often as possible. He lists John McClane, Batman, and Tom Brady as the people with whom he’d most like to have beers. For more of his grown-up nonsense, visit his Tumblr page or follow him on Twitter.Read More