Deep Blue Sea [1999]

With a voracious trio of mako sharks wreaking havoc, Deep Blue Sea dares to up the ante on Jaws, but director Renny Harlin trades the nuanced suspense of Spielberg's 1975 blockbuster for the trickery of the digital age. In other words, why build genuine terror when you can show ill-fated humans getting torn into bloody chunks? The aforementioned makos have been lab rats in an effort to harvest a miracle cure for Alzheimer's disease from the brains of sharks, but the research has an unfortunate side effect: the sharks get smarter, and they're determined to break out of Aquatica, the deep-sea complex where they've been penned. Model-actress Saffron Burrows plays the researcher; Thomas Jane pulls double-duty as shark expert and action hunk; Samuel L. Jackson's the corporate sponsor who chooses the worst time for an Aquatica tour; and rapper LL Cool J is nicely cast as Aquatica's cook and comic relief. Michael Rapaport, Jacqueline McKenzie, and Stellan SkarsgÄrd round out the cast, most of whom are turned into shark food as the makos turn Aquatica into a floating junkyard. Harlin takes devilish pleasure in providing sudden, unexpected shocks--no small feat in such a derivative thriller--and as a series of action set-pieces, Deep Blue Sea never disappoints. It's inevitable that Burrows should end up in her underwear like Sigourney Weaver in Alien, but even then the movie offers a credible reason for the strip-down; that Deep Blue Sea can be simultaneously ridiculous and sensible is just another one of its shlocky charms. --Jeff Shannon

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