(Netflix Streaming, January 2016) While Into the Blue wasn’t favourably reviewed upon release, it’s the fast-paced thrills-and-romance tropical adventure that it wants to be. Who doesn’t love sympathetic protagonists being stuck between two criminal groups as they hunt a lost Spanish treasure and discover a downed plane filled with drugs? With Paul Walker in the kind of charming-action-hero role he did best, Jessica Alba looking remarkably good, director John Stockwell capturing immersive underwater sequences and clean cinematography, this is an unassuming and enjoyable B-grade thriller. (It’s quite a bit more memorable than the similar Fool’s Gold, for instance.) The Caribbean scenery is used judiciously, the underwater set pieces successfully navigate a line between excitement and ridiculousness, everyone is ludicrously good-looking and there isn’t much time to get bored as the plot goes from one thing to another. This is not a great movie, but it’s an enjoyable one for what it tries to do. Keep your expectations in check and the result will leave you smiling and possibly booking a flight to the Bahamas.
(On Cable TV, June 2014) Sometime, it’s obvious from the beginning that a movie’s not going to get any better. So it is that Dark Tide‘s opening sequence serves as a rote prologue and an eloquent warning: This is a movie about sharks. It’s not a refined effort. It’s not going to be particularly impressive. Halle Berry will bring nothing to the role. And characters will be eaten by sharks. Once this is established, there’s nowhere left for Dark Tide to go despite the remainder of its running time. The plot may move “one year later”, but we know what to expect as two tourists walk aboard her ship and head for the sea in an effort to swim with the sharks. Much of the following hour is spent in false scares, perfunctory character development and minor anticipation as the plot builds itself up toward a pre-ordained third act: By the time the storm starts, night falls, the boat capsizes, and sharks attack, well, we knew it was all leading to this. The only surprise is how badly-shot that ending sequence becomes: A mushy blur of black and white, with occasional flashes of red to tell us that someone is being killed. Director John Stockwell isn’t completely incompetent (there are a few sequences earlier in the movie to suggest that he has at least an idea of what he should be doing) but he completely loses whatever visual grasp he had over the story late in the film, and it’s tempting to simply fast-forward past the noise and the confusion to see who makes it alive to dawn. Berry herself gets a few dramatic bickering scenes with Olivier Martinez (usually a good actor, wasted here) but doesn’t seem to bring anything more to the role than the bikini used on the film’s posters. Dark Tide is really just a tedious and forgettable B-grade thriller, more or less destined to become cable channel filler material. Don’t expect much from it, and if you do there’s always the first few minutes to set you straight.