Red Water (2003)

Red Water (2003)

Fear Strikes Where You Least Expect It.

John Sanders, a down-on-his-luck fisherman, is in desperate need of money and agrees to charter his boat out to a petroleum company who are looking to extract some gas deposits from further up a Louisiana river. Also on the river is a pair of gangsters and an ex-con who are trying to find some hidden treasure which was dumped in the river to hide it from the authorities. Unbeknownst to them, a killer bull shark which is able to survive in fresh water swims up the river and proceeds to wreak havoc with anyone caught in its path.

 

Long live Jaws! King of the killer shark movies for now and forever. No matter how many countless films have tried to recreate the success of Spielberg’s classic, none of them come even close. Let’s face it, as long as Jaws exists, there’s not going to be another half-decent killer shark film. It’s definitely not going to happen in a film where the killer shark itself becomes a secondary plot to gangsters and human villains. Typical of modern monster movies, the script doesn’t just see the need to have our hero face a deadly bull shark but a gang of criminals who are just as lethal. There’s only so much you can do with a killer shark and most of it involves the shark eating people and then swimming away.

Most of Red Water isn’t about the shark. It’s about the human characters and their various conflicts. Whilst this may be all well and good if there was actually some half-decent shark action to back it up, there isn’t and the film drags its heels. Let’s face it, the shark in Jaws didn’t really get a long of screen time but at least when it wasn’t on screen, the human characters were talking about and it was the main topic of conversation. Here you could mistake the film for some second rate cop thriller with hostage situations, shoot-outs and the like. The shark attacks a few people early on to establish its threat but then it disappears until it’s needed again for the finale. In fact most of the film, especially the idyllic river setting, is more reminiscent of the original Piranha…..if only the film was half as entertaining as that was.

Predictability is this film’s worst enemy. From teenagers with a handful of lines to the main stars, it’ll take about ten seconds for you to place each character into the live and die pile. As the credits roll, there’ll be no one in the die pile that you didn’t expect. The shark does get well fed though but again this is confined to the early part of the film. The shark itself switches between stock footage, CGI and a mechanical model but you see so little of it anyway that I don’t see the point in them making a full-sized replica. The mechanical shark looks alright but I fail to see the logic in making it and then putting it into a script in which it can’t do most of the things it’s required to do. The less said about the CGI the better and the stock footage of real sharks bears no resemblance whatsoever to the shark they’re attempting to portray in this river. In a throwaway nod to this film’s obvious inspiration, the sunken car sports the same license plate that Hooper pulls out of the dead tiger shark in Jaws.

A trio of ‘big names’ headline Red Water but their stars faded long ago and they seem happy living off their past glories. Lou Diamond Phillips continues to pick bad projects but it looks like he’s happy to star in these second-rate clunkers now (Bats and Wyvern also spring to mind). His broody fisherman with a chip on the shoulder is exactly the same type of role he’s played in the other creature features he’s starred in. Kristy Swanson, the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer, co-stars and although she still looks good, it’s hardly a role which will give her a leg back up the Hollywood ladder.

Rounding off the trio is former rapper Coolio. He gets to embarrass himself by playing, surprisingly, a rapper criminal who might as well have stereotype labelled to his forehead. There’s also an appearance by Dennis Haskins (aka Mr Belding of Saved By the Bell fame) and it’s nice to see that he’s not just been stuck playing Bayside’s principal for the last twenty years. In a film which is so heavily reliant on the human characters to keep audiences entertained between shark attacks, it’s such a shame that the script is awful.

 

Red Water is undeniably a terrible shark flick but in a sub-genre which continually delivers absolutely nothing original or even half as suspenseful or entertaining as Jaws, it’s no surprise to see the end result. I don’t see how hard it is for studios to understand that audiences watch killer shark films to see people dragged kicking and screaming underwater as opposed to watching a gang of criminals dive for sunken treasure.

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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