Review: Dark Tide (2012)

0


Cast: Halle Berry, Olivier Martinez, Ralph Brown
Director: John Stockwell
Country: USA | South Africa
Genre: Adventure | Drama | Thriller
Official Trailer: Here


Editor’s Note: Dark Tide began its limited release in North American theatres on March 30th. It is also available via Video on Demand.

The setup comes borrowed oh-so-unsubtly from Cliffhanger: having lost a friend on the job some time prior, an expert in a dangerous field reluctantly returns to the fold. It didn’t do much for Renny Harlin’s film almost 20 years ago, and here in Dark Tide it’s even more lifeless. At least with Cliffhanger you had the benefits of John Lithgow hamming it up as a maniacal villain, Sylvester Stallone spouting cringe-worthy one liners from his trademark grimace, and unashamed gore like the infamous stalactite impaling. There was a film that knew what it was, that understood its roots in exploitation cinema and their mainstream indoctrination in a Hollywood post-Jaws, and that gave audiences what it knew they wanted. Dark Tide aspires to be “more” than an exploitation movie: it looks down upon its own foundations with an expression of vague disgust, yet feels all too comfortable falling back on the safety of a generic framework whenever it gets lost.

Here is a film without a single iota of originality, a frustratingly tedious and overlong bore that makes the Shark Attack series look like Jaws and the exit the most appealing thing in the world.

Halle Berry takes over from Stallone as the reluctant expert Kate, his mountains replaced with her sea, his mercenary thieves with her sharks. Her South African shark-tour business growing ever closer to bankruptcy, she finds herself unable to turn down her estranged husband and the millionaire he brings in tow when they offer her a considerable payload to introduce the latter’s son to the world of shark diving in order to make a man of him. It’s an unconvincing setup at best, a contrived and silly way of putting a character with emotional baggage back in the water with some great whites. There’s a point where the husband, a documentary filmmaker, suggests a film following Kate with a clichéd title. “Mysteries of the Deep?” she retorts, “You can’t come up with something better than that?”. It’s a question that surrounds Dark Tide constantly as its dull characters draw closer to a poorly-arrived at conclusion. Here is a film without a single iota of originality, a frustratingly tedious and overlong bore that makes the Shark Attack series look like Jaws and the exit the most appealing thing in the world.

The one character we might perhaps associate with is Kate, but the wild mental flagellations that constitute her decision in the final act to do that which she has spent the rest of the film refusing to do is so odiously thin-sketched a point of characterisation that we come to hope she loses at least one limb.

Of course, aiming to bring a dramatic respectability to a type of film wholly identified with exploitation cinema is no bad thing in itself; indeed just those intentions characterised the films that pushed Hollywood forward into the blockbuster era way back in the late 1970s. Dark Tide does so, however, in a purely contemptible and vilely dull manner so removed from dramatic innovation that its 113 minute running time seems to engulf the entire day. The one character we might perhaps associate with is Kate, but the wild mental flagellations that constitute her decision in the final act to do that which she has spent the rest of the film refusing to do is so odiously thin-sketched a point of characterisation that we come to hope she loses at least one limb. Had Dark Tide elected to be another stupidly fun shark exploitation movie it might have been bad, but at least it would have done so with tasteless gory aplomb. As it is, this is a shamefully poor work of pathetic comic “relief” from painfully uninteresting drama, all set to the tune of movies it looks down on but is, in the end, nothing but a pale shadow of.

Will Kate overcome the traumas of her past to be able to confront the ocean again? Will she be able to work out her differences with her husband and somehow find a way to reconcile? Will father and son come to understand and appreciate one another? Will the sharks please hurry up and eat these people already? Rooting for the sharks isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but not when the film shoots for drama rather than exploitation. These are people brought together by the dangerous consequences of their own stupidity: precisely the kind of thing that would make them perfect shark fodder in a good old fashioned creature feature. As woodenly acted as it is ploddingly scripted, if Dark Tide has one good feature, it’s reminding us just how much silly Cliffhanger was.

[notification type=”star”]25/100 ~ PAINFUL. Dark Tide is a film without a single iota of originality, a frustratingly tedious and overlong bore that makes the Shark Attack series look like Jaws and the exit the most appealing thing in the world.[/notification]

Share.

About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.