Directed by John Stockwell
Distributed by Lionsgate
Halle Berry starring in a thriller about a shark diving expedition gone wrong from the director of Blue Crush and Into the Blue. Good or bad, boredom is that last thing you would expect from such a motion picture. It’s no wonder this film is bypassing movie theaters. If you’re smart, you’ll let it bypass your television and computer screens as well. How can 90% of a movie take place on or in the water and it still turn out this dry?
Let’s start with the fact that Dark Tide is being deceptively marketed as a realistic shark thriller in the vein of Open Water. It really isn’t. It’s not quite a thriller and not quite a melodrama. It’s not really much of anything, certainly nothing compelling. Aside from real underwater diving footage, which is admittedly lovely, there is so little action or tension that a brief scene mid-movie of a scuba diving poacher getting eaten in the dark by an unseen shark feels like it was tacked on after the fact because the producers realized their movie was so dull they had to shoot an extra shark attack scene to try to keep the audience from falling asleep.
At ten minutes shy of two hours with barely anything resembling a plot, only a few sporadic moments of generic underwater and sinking ship action, and only the flimsiest of character development, there’s not much here to keep you awake unless you’re a huge fan of underwater nature photography or can get your rocks off from the few scenes of Halle Berry in a bikini.
Halle Berry is a marine biologist jokingly referred to as a shark whisperer. We know she has this special relationship with sharks because she tells us so via voiceover and others tell us so via dialogue, not so much because we actually see her doing much of anything in the water to indicate she has any kind of natural bond with the creatures.
When Berry isn’t clearly phoning it in, her character comes across as so shrill it’s hard to like her. Actually, the whole movie feels so phoned in even the actual sharks appearing via stock nature footage appear to be just going through the motions.
Berry still fares better than Olivier Martinez, playing the husband who makes money filming his wife performing her shark exploits. His character is French. If you’re not sure of this, don’t worry; the movie will remind you every chance it gets. He says this because “he’s French”. He does that because “he’s French”. What’s that? French humor, of course. Is it also because he’s French that he comes across as such a douchebag? The script can’t seem to make up its mind if it wants us to see him get eaten by sharks or patch up his relationship with Berry. I know which I wanted to see.
FYI – Halle Berry and Olivier Martinez are now engaged to be married in real life. I guess something good came out of this dud for Miss Berry. I mean, besides the obvious paid scuba diving vacation, the only reason I can fathom she ever agreed to star in the first place.
One of her closest companions is fatally attacked by a shark during one of her dives in the film’s one and only compelling scene. This causes her to become gun-shy about getting back into the shark-infested waters. Whether or not she will overcome this fear is moot because there’s never any indication she has a real problem other than being needlessly argumentative about, well, everything.
Fast forward a year later – she’s quit diving and split up with Martinez, and her South African charter boat business is doing so poorly the bank is about to seize her boat. Martinez shows up with a wealthy European businessman that wants to go swimming with Great White sharks outside of the safety of the shark cage, and the prick wants to bring his whiny son along to help finally make a man out of him. We’re told this is something so rare and dangerous Berry is one of the only people in the world to actually do it. The money he’s offering is too good for her to turn down.
This leads to plenty of estranged husband and wife/estranged father and son bickering, as well as scintillating scenes of Halle Berry arguing with the rich man over his determination to violate her “no smoking” policy by lighting up a cig on the deck of her boat. Lengthy underwater diving montages attempt to break up the monotony of this turgid melodrama.
The finale actually owes more to The Perfect Storm than Open Water. By the time the Great White constantly shown prowling about finally decides to take a bite out of someone, it’s less a case of tension having built up to a terrifying payoff and more likely to have you saying “Finally!” because it drug on forever – much like the movie as a whole. This finale takes place at night with so little lighting and with almost everyone in full scuba gear, thus making it difficult to even distinguish who is who much of the time.
Will Halle Berry and Olivier Martinez patch up their relationship? Will father and son patch up their relationship? Will someone get eaten by a shark? Will you give a damn about any of it? At the risk of spoiling the movie, the answers to those questions are maybe, kind of, yes, and hell no.
I have a feeling there were some major last-minute changes to this film before it began production that probably led to it being such a meandering bore. I didn’t get that feeling until after I had finished writing this review and went to IMDB to look up something about Dark Tide and saw this plot synopsis at the top of the page:
A professional diver tutor Brady returns to deep waters after nine years following an almost fatal encounter with a great white shark, bringing a happy couple Kate and Jeff. However, before they know it they discover that the nightmare from the deep is still lurking in the deep, more carnivorous and hungry than ever.
Uh, that’s not the movie I saw. I wish it had been. Sounds more entertaining than the one I watched.
1 out of 5
1/2 out of 5