MGM. Director: John Stockwell.
Creature Feature Bleachers Award: Most Stereotypical-Looking Bad Guys.
“Into the Blue” is another one of those treasure-hunting films that also contains significant sharksploitation elements. In that sense, I’d put it on the same level as 1969’s “Caine,” if that film hadn’t been renamed “Shark!” for marketing purposes. While the sharks don’t get as much screen time as usual, “Into the Blue” compensates with some pretty good shark humor. And when it comes down to it, this film is a fairly decent movie in its own right— an important factor, considering that it’s 20 minutes longer than most sharksploitation films. (Imagine if “Psycho Shark” had been just five minutes longer… shudder…). If nothing else, this movie gave director John Stockwell sharks on the brain, laying the groundwork for his 2012 Halle Berry shark flick, “Dark Tide.”
Jared (Paul Walker) and Sam (Jessica Alba) scratch out a living in the Bahamas, hoping to stumble across a life-changing sunken treasure. Jared’s lawyer buddy Bryce (Scott Caan) comes for a visit, bringing some girl he just met— Amanda (Ashley Scott)— with him. While diving, the group discovers what could be a famous treasure lode. Unfortunately, they also find some complicating factors: a sunken cocaine plane and some playful sharks. Jared doesn’t have the equipment to properly excavate and lay claim to the pirate ship, so Bryce and Amanda secretly try to sell the cocaine to raise cash. Bad idea. The drug dealers demand that the gang salvage all of the cocaine in 12 hours. Can they get themselves out of this situation without revealing the pirate ship’s location to other treasure hunters?
“Into the Blue” has two basic segments to it. The first half of the film is characterized by humor and butts; the second half is intrigue and violence. The intrigue and violence are a little bit stressful, but some of the comedy in the first half is actually pretty good. For example, when a few sharks swim by, Bryce starts freaking out like most characters in a sharksploitation film. Of course, sharks are usually harmless in the real world; the highpoint of the scene comes when Bryce unnecessarily tries to fend them off with a broom, and they chomp it. Without being farcical, “Into the Blue” provides some some good humor. I’ll let you be your own judge when it comes to the butts, though.
I usually try not to nitpick the actions of movie characters (that way madness lies), but I think Jared could have avoided a lot of the intrigue and violence by just selling his pirate knife. Here’s the situation: he needs money to rent a salvage ship before rival treasure hunters discover his buried treasure. Bryce suggests selling a little of the sunken cocaine, just enough to rent the ship and claim the treasure. Though Jared desperately needs the cash, he refuses to cross that moral line. Yet… he has a solid gold pirate knife that he discovered on the wreck. I wouldn’t want to part with the knife, either, but when your only other options are to lose a treasure or become a drug dealer, the choice seems pretty obvious. Sure, selling an old gold pirate knife would probably raise some questions, but so would moving several kilos of cocaine.
That being said, I appreciate the realistic way in which “Into the Blue” handles treasure hunting. Though my own treasure seeking is strictly confined to flea markets, I’ve studied the related field of underwater archaeology. Since cartoonish smash-and-grab representations of ‘archaeology’ in movies always bother me, it’s nice to see a more true-to-life depiction of the hard work and scientific knowledge required for any sort of underwater excavation. And if you’re unlikely to have Jessica Alba for a diving partner in real life, at least the film provides a new twist to the old formula: what if you accidentally found a dangerous modern-day sunken treasure next to a historic one? After all, pirate’s gold may be blood money, but cocaine continues to harm people even after it leaves your hands.
And that’s to say nothing of the frightening villains with which it will put you into contact. The actors chosen to represent the dark side, James Frain and Tyson Beckford, play their roles well, but if “Into the Blue” ever gets cartoonish, it’s on their watch. Not because of what they do, per se, but because of their appearance.
The most bothersome part about “Into the Blue” is all the free diving. For those who don’t know, free diving is diving done without the benefit of respiratory devices. That is, holding your breath and swimming underwater. I know that people actually do this, and the cast mentions how much they came to love it in the special features. Still, free diving is just plain uncomfortable to watch. I can barely hold my breath for 30 seconds while watching a movie, let alone 4 minutes while searching for treasure underwater.
Sharks may not be the main focus of “Into the Blue,” but the film throws us a small bone: Sam works with sharks at ‘The Atlantis,’ a sort of SeaWorld equivalent. Her scene there is brief and underplayed, but it still manages to taunt me with the same unfulfilled potential of “Jaws 3.” Someday, someone will make a film about people trapped in the flooded tunnels of a shark habitat. Someday…
The trailer is pretty decent:
“Into the Blue” is available on Amazon.