It only took about three years for Renny Harlin to get out of Hollywood jail for the World Record-setting box office disaster that was Cutthroat Island, and to get his mitts on another $60 million to set on fire with a movie about genetically modified sharks that are as smart as people and basically tear apart a floating/underwater research facility out in the middle of the ocean. How Harlin turned that into a $170 million success is beyond me, because Deep Blue Sea is seriously one of the stupidest movies I have ever seen.
Like I said, the madness begins at some seaborne facility that looks like a mad scientist version of SeaWorld, because the only thing harder than science is doing it out in the middle of the goddamned ocean, so why not, right? Why not just build your shark facility out where only seaplanes are ever find to find you?
The purpose of this knucklehead atoll of poor planning is to take mako sharks and ‘roid them out so they’re bigger than great whites, the idea being that they can then harvest the sharks for some kind of miracle cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, which is the stupidest freaking idea ever. Let me tell you something. My dear departed grandfather suffered from Alzheimer’s for years before he finally passed on, and even during the time when he forgot who I was, if you would have showed him the prospectus for a plan this numbskulled, he would have laughed at it for the idiocy that it was. He was afflicted, but he was not stupid.
Anyway, as you can guess, the whole thing goes sideways right as a wealthy benefactor played by SAMUEL L. JACKSON—who merits all caps because of how he talks in movies like this—arrives to tour the facility. He is met by the staff, consisting mainly of Saffron “I also wasted my time in Wing Commander” Burrows, Thomas “I somehow made the Punisher boring” Jane, and LL Cool J as the Black Guy Who Lives, a not-nearly-as-clever-as-it-feels reverse trope invented to counter the Black Guy Dies First. I think Michael Rapaport is in there, too, but I can’t be bothered to remember. If he is, some mutant shark ate him, so I guess it wasn’t a total loss.
The problem when you make super-smart mutant sharks who can basically swim through your easily-submerged facility is that they use teamwork and know that there will never, ever be enough weapons on hand to kill however many monster sharks get spawned by this epic scientific fustercluck. So when the sharks do break free and flood the place, our heroes are reduced to defending themselves with harebrained ideas that were probably stolen off the writing room floor from whatever studio was making Final Destination around the same time. LL Cool Jay tricks a shark into swimming face-first into an exploding oven. Saffron Burrows kills one by taking off her clothes. Thomas Jane zaps one with a car battery or something, but all I remember is that he gets harpooned through the leg along the way, and all the while, he probably wished it happened to his agent instead.
The only saving grace to this underwater moronothon is, of course, this movie’s moment of truth. Right after things go haywire, SAMUEL L. JACKSON steps in and tells everybody to chill. He regales them with an inspiring story of how he once survived a mountain climbing expedition where the group got hit by an avalanche and they resorted to cannibalism to survive. The point being that this situation and the mountain climb both involve unwanted passages through somebody else’s digestive system, so the trick here is to stay cool and work together. But before SAMUEL L. JACKSON can lay out his master plan to get out of this chum factory, he forgets that he is standing right next to an open water pit, and one of the mutant sharks bursts out of the water and eats him.
I’m going to call it: this moment is my favorite death scene ever. Forget Willem DeFoe in Platoon. (Spoiler!) Forget James Caan in the Godfather (Spoiler!). Hell forget even Steven Seagal in Executive Decision. The sudden and savage departure of SAMUEL L. JACKSON from Deep Blue Sea was so brazen and unexpected that it is actually the law in 21 states to stand and give a respectful round of applause whenever this scene is viewed.
There are three things that can save any movie, no matter how terrible it is. The first is a completely unexplained velociraptor attack. The second is if, in the last 10 minutes, ED-209 from Robocop walks in and just opens fire. And the third is if a shark suddenly eats SAMUEL L. JACKSON. If nothing else, Deep Blue Sea has given us the third leg of the Holy Trinity of fail-safe cinematic plot devices, and for that, we must always give Renny Harlin his due. He deserves a Get Out of Shark Attack for Free card. But just the one. Sharks gotta eat, too, you know.