“The Shallows” – Review By Zachary Marsh

The Shallows

There are some movies out there that defy any logic, reason or being other than the fact that they’re tailor-made by studios as attempts to make money.  “The Shallows,” ladies and gentlemen, is one of those movies.  Unless you wanted to see a mash-up between “Cast Away” and “Jaws” starring one of the ladies from “Gossip Girl,” chances are nobody was asking for this to exist.  Said “Gossip Girl” actress taking the helm of this maritime disaster is Mrs. Ryan Reynolds herself, Blake Lively.  Lively plays a medical student named Nancy, who gets stranded offshore after a shark attacks her and traps her on top of a rock.  Based on that short synopsis, I think it’s safe to say that the story goes almost exactly as you might expect it to occur.  As this is a horror-thriller, though, jump scares come into play with the aid of suspenseful music and a “menacing” villain.  What makes this “stand out” amongst similarly themed motion pictures is that, aside from Blake Lively being the star, one of her co-stars is an injured seagull named “Steven.”  Get it?  Steven Seagull!  What a hilarious name!  That’s the least of the problems that I had with this 87-minute piece of stupidity.

The whole point of movies, especially fictional horror tales such as this one, is to allow the audience to escape from their world and be able to suspend their disbelief for about two hours.  Well, except for movies based on true stories, but that’s not what I’m getting at here.  It’s fine when a movie is dumb and somehow acknowledges itself as such, but “The Shallows” does anything BUT do that.  The amount of improbability stuffed in this turkey, from the initial shark attack that gets the story going to the mind-bogglingly absurd and unrealistic climax, is almost jaw-dropping, to say the least.  The shark in this film is capable of tearing through metal chains and human beings like there’s no tomorrow.  And yet, Blake Lively comes away from her shark attack with just a large bite mark on her thigh.

Like I said, this shark could have torn through Lively like there’s no tomorrow.  If anything, her leg should have been bitten off at least.  It was during this shark attack that this began to lose me.  Then again, I wasn’t with the movie from the get-go thanks to an awful opening scene between Lively’s Nancy and a Mexican local.  This sequence of magical effects is chock full of broken English, miscommunication, clunky exposition, odd texting bubbles that fill up at least 30% of the screen, and an Uber reference.  Why the Uber reference, you say?  Well because it’s hip, modern, and recognizable, and it can help the Mexican local be baffled at such an odd sounding term.  This piece of comedic material is what a joke in the modern-day era of “moviefilms” sounds like, ladies and gentlemen!

The Shallows

There are reviews out there that say that Blake Lively’s performance is “powerful” and “good,” and in some parts, I will say that she was decent.  Overall, though, I thought she was pretty bad.  There are some moments where, thanks in part to her performance, I was trying to hold in my laughter.  Some of her line delivery and overall performance is so cringe-inducing that it made her role in “Green Lantern” look solid in comparison.  Having seen her act in projects such as “Gossip Girl” and “The Age of Adaline,” I do believe she’s a decent enough actress who deserves more on her palette.  It’s obvious her heart’s in the project, and she wants to be there, but most of the movie consists of her mediocre performance as well as so many shots of her skin-tight bikini and long-sleeve rashguard that might as well have had the term “fan-service” plastered all over.  If I took a shot of whiskey every time a shot of either Lively’s PG-13 covered chest or of her bikini bottom (no pun intended, I swear to god) popped up on the screen, then I would have been trashed by the time the shark made its initial attack.

If there was one thing that caused me to question the movie’s purpose of being early on, it had to have been the slow-motion sequences.  When Nancy initially gets her sexy bikini and her rashguard (with her breasts still exposed because “Yay, Boobies!”) on and heads to the water, the shots begin to slow down.  Some may call this artistic, especially when we get to see shots of her and these other two gentlemen (who may or may not end up being shark food later on) surfing to the sound of some dubstep track. Personally, I call this “an excuse to drag the movie out to almost 90 minutes.”  I wholeheartedly believe that, if these shots were at normal speed, then the movie would have ended up being 60-70 minutes long.  I won’t even make a drinking analogy to the amount of slow-mo present because doing that implies I would be alive to see all of these shots.  That may sound like an over-exaggerated expression of distaste on my part, but believe me, there are THAT many slow-motion shots to be witnessed here.  The shots might have looked neat and are filmed pretty well, but it’s hard not to notice how it’s just slowed down to fill up time rather than just being a filmmaker’s artistic expression of showing this girl’s love for surfing.

Speaking of the technical side of things here, the CGI on the shark, as well as with other scattered set pieces and objects, is pretty mediocre, to say the least.  The shark in this movie is so obviously fake and accomplishes so many unbelievable things that it would make the sharks in “Sharknado” look more realistic in comparison.  If you don’t believe me now, and you still end up going to see this, just wait until Lively battles against the shark in one hell of an insane climax.  Aside from being incredibly implausible and these two characters doing things that I believe are near-impossible, the ending of the climax got me rather mad. With this being the type of movie it is, the outcome of it all shouldn’t surprise anybody in who wins between a wounded medical student and a giant man-eating shark.  To avoid spoilers, I won’t say who wins.  What I will say, though, is that the way things unfolded, in the end, had the audience around me applaud.  As soon as this unlikely occurrence happened, I lost all of my professional silence and screamed “Bullshit!” out to the screen.  I can’t remember the last time I did that during a movie in a packed theater, but “The Shallows” caused me to do that, and then some.  Things got worse once I found out who was responsible for bringing this water-based turd of a thriller to the silver screen.

The Shallows

The director at the helm of this motion picture is none other than Catalan filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra.  Aside from being responsible for that “House of Wax” remake nobody likes and the 2009 film “Orphan,” Collet-Sera has been accountable for three of the past Liam Neeson action-thrillers, those being “Unknown,” “Non-Stop,” and “Run All Night.”  All three of these movies are ones that I enjoyed much more than I thought I would have.  When I looked up who the director of this thing was after experiencing it all, I was shocked because of how much I enjoyed his collaborations with the “Taken” star.  If there are any positives I can give to this film, it would be that the direction was competent enough.  The real problems lie in the script for the reasons I’ve been talking about.  Screenwriter Anthony Jaswinski hasn’t done much that you might have heard of, and that’s mainly because most of his stuff has just been direct-to-DVD pieces of cinema that you’d stumble upon at Redbox.  Long story short, this is one of those movies that you’d see while scrolling through Redbox selections.  If the script had been maybe more self-aware and comedic, or even more plausible in its execution, then I bet I’d be more positive on this.

If you’ve read my reviews before, you should know that I don’t tend to be negative towards a lot of movies.  I’m that guy who enjoyed films such as “Dirty Grandpa,” “The Brothers Grimsby,” and others that have been panned.  I will say, though, that when a movie is stupid and just overall bad, I will call it out on its faults.  “The Shallows” is a bad movie, plain and simple.  It’s an inept, stupid, unintentionally hilarious thriller that had me flabbergasted once it ended. Blake Lively is trying, sure, but the material she’s working with is so lackluster that it’s almost astonishing that the studio heads were able to get her to sign on as the lead.  I could go on and on about why this movie pissed me off and why I think it’s a rather horrible excuse for summer “entertainment,” but I’m in the minority when it comes to this film.

Other critics out there have been pretty goddamn positive about this thus far, and the “consensus” this has over on Rotten Tomatoes has me baffled.  I can’t imagine anyone taking this seriously in the slightest, and yet the majority of people have, apparently.  I spoke to a friend about this, and he mentioned how maybe this was a self-aware thriller along the lines of “Piranha 3D.”  To that, I told him that I highly doubted that. If this were meant to be self-aware and intentionally stupid and funny, then it wouldn’t have taken itself so seriously and instead been a bit cheekier in how the characters and the story did things.  As a human being with particular tastes, I can’t agree with everyone, as I mentioned earlier.  If you’re able to take this seriously and enjoy it as the “tense” and “suspenseful” horror-thriller other critics have been describing it as, then I’m happy you were able to find some entertainment out of this.  I could only recommend “The Shallows” as a movie to gather a bunch of buddies for and get trashed and/or stoned during for an even more magical experience.  As a serious motion picture, on the other hand, this is a terrible, terrible piece of filmmaking.  It’s not the worst thing out there, but it certainly isn’t scary, tense, or easy to take seriously in my eyes.

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