Magnet Media Productions. Director: John Stockwell.
Creature Feature Bleachers Award: Girly-est.
Given the prevalence of bikini-clad babes in most sharksploitation films, it seems fair to assume that the genre is mainly targeted towards males. You may be thinking, “That’s unfair!” and asking yourself, “Why hasn’t anyone tried to make a killer shark film for women?” The answer is, someone did. It’s called “Dark Tide.” When I first picked up the DVD and read the back cover, my mind was almost completely overpowered by gushy mush, yet the film itself isn’t as terribly girly as one might expect. I actually enjoyed some of the humor, and while I wouldn’t want to watch a film like this one every week, it made for a nice change of pace. Give me “Dark Tide” over “Tintorera” any day.
Kate (Halle Berry) is one of a very few people who can safely free dive with sharks (that is, she can bonk them on the nose without a cage, diving equipment, or being devoured). When her mentor gets eaten on a dive, however, the experience leaves emotional scars that prevent Kate from returning to the water. A year later, her Cape Town tour boat business is struggling to keep its head above water. Unlike her competitors, Kate refuses to take tourists out to see the sharks. She’s losing business and the bank is threatening to take her boat. One day Kate’s husband Jeff (Olivier Martinez), whom she has not seen since the accident, shows up out of the blue with a plan to make a lot of green. Rich businessman Brady (Ralph Brown) wants to take his estranged son Luke (Luke Tyler) out to free dive with the sharks, and is willing to part with 100,000 euros in order to do so. Can Kate pull herself together long enough to fulfill Brady’s request?
You can tell this is a girly film by the fact that sharks aren’t the villains. Sharks are beautiful natural creatures that people must learn to live in harmony with, and if divers get eaten it’s their own fault, because sharks are simply a force of nature. Instead, the film casts Brady as the villain. Though he commits no crimes and threatens no lives (other than his own), we know he’s the bad guy because he’s out of touch with his emotions. He has seven children by different women, but he never spends time with them. Even when he makes an effort to bond with Luke (by taking him to free dive with sharks, of all things), he can’t help but belittle his son’s interest in photography. Brady is selfish, reckless and a bully, and in a film like this one, that qualifies him as a villain.
“Dark Tide” proved to be a learning experience for me in regards to Halle Berry. Like most people I have chatted with, I can only remember Berry being in one other film that I have seen— 2004’s “Catwoman,” which stank worse than a crazy cat lady’s house. This leads me to postulate the Halle Berry Theory: Everyone knows that Halle Berry is a famous actress, but no one has ever actually seen her in more than two movies. In “Dark Tide” she’s okay, but her performance is nothing to write home about.
My view of this film would be drastically different were it not for jocular boat mechanic Tommy (Mark Elderkin). Tommy provides a steady stream of one-liners and situational humor that makes the film bearable and even enjoyable— at least when he’s around. Elderkin plays this supporting role perfectly, but I’d love to see a shark film in which he plays the lead. Most sharksploitation films are farces (whether intentionally so or not), but it would be interesting to see a more-or-less serious shark film starring a comedic character.
You have to love movie websites. The website for “Dark Tide” doesn’t offer much in terms of behind-the-scenes information, but it does contain a verbose, overly-detailed retelling of the film’s plot. The write-up, which uses the word “learnt,” is about twice as long as the review you are currently reading. To get a feel for its style, mull over this description of Brady: “He’s basically filthy rich, hard-living and has a total admiration for Kate’s work… He’s a brutish kind of fellow, this Brady, and believes that swimming with a shark would be the ultimate test of putting one’s courage on the line.”
The trailer underplays the emotional aspect of the film for some reason:
“Dark Tide” is available on Amazon.