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Dark Tide (2012)

April 7, 2012

 

written by: Ronnie Christensen and Amy Sorlie

produced by: Jeanette Beurling and Matthew E. Chausse

directed by: John Stockwell

rating: PG-13 (for bloody shark attacks/disturbing images, and for language including sexual references)

runtime: 94 min.

U.S. release date: March 8, 2012 (VOD, ZUNE, iTunes, Amazon), March 30, 2012 (limited) and April 13, 2012 (wide)

 

Having a one-time Oscar winner star in a movie doesn’t guarantee a golden performance or a good viewing experience. Recent examples of this can be found in last year’s “Trespass” starring Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman and in “Dream House” starring Rachel Weisz. Those actors have all won Oscars, yet for numerous reasons, both films were painfully predictable and boring. One can only hope that Halle Berry’s continuation of this trend is unintentional (does an actor ever really set out to make a bad movie?), but her latest “Dark Tide”, is an unfortunate addition to her filmography. It may be marketed as a shark attack thriller, but any thrills are bogged down by an awful screenplay, terrible acting, and murky underwater camerawork. Many will be expecting to see Berry in a bikini, but I was hoping director John Stockwell would return with another of his colorful aqua-adventures (“Blue Crush” and “Into the Blue”) that provided some fun escapism at the theater. It remains to be seen if the movie’s pre-theatrical release will produce a tide that will send this dull dud to the doors of an actual theater anytime soon.

A year after a fatal Great White attack in South Africa resulting in the death of her close diving companion, expert free-swimmer Kate Mathieson (Halle Berry) has left her shark interaction talents behind to guide tourists around on boring boat tours of local sea life. She is visited by her estranged husband and oceanographer, Jeff (Olivier Martinez) who presents her with a job offer that will get her shark mojo back and keep her boat afloat. Jeff introduces her to Brady (Ralph Brown, “Alien 3″ & Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace”), an arrogant millionaire who bullies his uninterested son Nate (Luke Taylor) into joining him on a thrill-seeking, cage-free swim with Great Whites, using Kate as a chaperone. She refuses at first, but with Brady paying for repairs on her boat and the promise of even more money, Kate reluctantly agrees to take her inexperienced clients into the depths off Cape Town. As they make their way to Shark Alley, egos clash resulting in acts of recklessness amid tumultuous weather conditions that threatens the lives of everyone.

If the only aspect of a shark thriller that can be appreciated is the scenic geography, then there’s obviously some serious problems. Predominately filmed in False Bay in Cape Town, the production value available is undeniably beautiful. All Stockwell  has to do is let the cameras roll on the winding coastal roads and the impressive shores, as well as the fascinating inhabitants such as dolphins, whales, sea lions and penguins that sound like jackasses. I’ll give the movie credit for providing a captivating travelogue, but that’s where the accolades stop.

 

 

Back to those serious problems – notice I haven’t mention the sharks yet? That’s because they’re far from being anything close to memorable. I’ll take the smarty sharks from “Deep Blue Sea” any day over these boring predators. While Stockwell does deliver some interesting visuals with blood in the water, using both underwater and surface viewpoints, most of the shark footage feels like stock Discovery Channel clips.

There’s never a feeling of any real threat nor are there any armchair bracing moments, in fact the most cringe-worthy moments is when we hear bones crunch during an attack – mainly because what we can see on the screen is indecipherable. In fact, the last half hour of the movie which takes place at night on a stormy sea, is so dark (hence the title) that it’s impossible to make out what’s happening. Those were the scenes that were likely filmed in an underwater tank at Pinewood Studios in London, and unfortunately it feels like it.

 

 

As with most bad or disappointing movies, the epicenter of failure here starts with the script. Robert Christensen (responsible for “Passengers” a plodding plane-crash survivor movie with Anne Hathaway that never made it to theaters) and newcomer Amy Sorlie, team-up to give us a bland screenplay that would receive an F in film school. They start out by giving Berry narration which she reads in a nice and relaxing tone, like she’s sitting by a pool sipping an iced chai latte. As the movie progresses, we’re subjected to stock characters spouting unnatural lines while stereotypical plotlines unfold. If you can’t figure out where this movie is going, then you haven’t watched many movies.  The tone of the screenplay either needed to veer toward exploitative or include some needed clever wit, because for some reason the writers thought that watching two leads continuously arguing and going on and on about their woes, would be entertaining.

Maybe it would be, it the script was smart and the actors had chemistry. Berry and Martinez are far from a captivating couple. It’s ironic, since they started dating after filming the movie and are now engaged. Hope it works out better than this movie. Even apart though, neither actor feels like they are even trying. Berry seems to be using some of her recycled sass and physical antics, while most of the scenes with Martinez desperately needed subtitles. And then there’s the antagonist played by Brown, who comes across like a one-note cartoonish joke. I can’t think of one performance in this movie that had me invested or provoked any kind of connection. That’s a bad sign.

The reason why “Jaws” is such a classic and a beloved film is primarily because of the characters and the fantastic script the actors had to work with. “Dark Tide” doesn’t come close to those essential elements. While I did learn a few things, like how to tell if a shark is a male or female – as shark movies go, this one has little bite and is ultimately a heavy sinker. When I wasn’t falling asleep, I was hoping the sharks would devour them all – or at least jump out of the water and do a catchy musical number.

 

 

 

RATING: *

 

 

 

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