Harlin started his American career with the superb, yet underrated horror film PRISON(1988) and over the next eleven years would stay true to his Finnish roots and crank out silly, broad appeal, but highly entertaining action-oriented films. Hell, even to this day, I will gladly take CUTTHROAT ISLAND (1995) over PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN (2003). No matter how stunningly bad Geena Davis and her implants are, they still rate higher than yet another one of Johnny Depp’s mincing, fey eccentrics.
The film opens with the sense that this is essentially a FRIDAY THE 13th sequel in the water (which is really not a bad idea until you remember that they made part 8). A couple of young, pretty couples are having a beer drinking make-out session on a catamaran, when they are suddenly attacked by a shark that punches through their hull, but doesn’t seem too interested in munching on the fleshy morsels that are now flailing around in the water. This is to give ex-con smuggler turned shark handler Carter Blake (Thomas Jane) plenty of time to arrive out of nowhere and shoot the predator with tranquilizer-filled harpoons and save the day… err, night. Damn, he's good at his job! How else would he have been able to track a shark in one night to coastline where over-privileged tweens would be hanging out? He's that good!
Once the water starts flooding the station, our aquatic Jason Voorhees manages to bust through a solid steel airlock door to get into the galley, but once in the galley cannot seem to muster the strength to smash through the glass on a convection oven. A convection oven that was apparently fitted with a waterproof electrical system in the case of just such an event. It’s also interesting to note that the beast is described as being a 45 foot, 8000 pound shark. The shark in JAWS (1975) was estimated at 25 feet and 6000 pounds. So even given the fact that this would be a selachimorphaic Jared Fogle, it would be impossible for something that big to navigate the half submerged rooms and hallways. That isn’t my biggest issue, no sir. My main gripe is that all credibility is lost when the cook, Preach, grabs a bottle of Reese cooking wine and starts chugging. Every cook knows damn well that the bottle says “Cooking Wine”, it doesn’t say “Drinking Wine” and there is a very good reason for that. Never, ever drink the cooking wine. Even if you are about to be attacked by a 8000 pound shark. Matter of fact, no one should really ever cook with it either. Fortunately he redeems himself by leaving what he thinks may be his last message to the world, which is never to use milk in an omelet. Damn straight, my brotha, you know it.
|Another glamorous day on a Hollywood movie set|
Unfortunately, in spite of being one of the few bright spots of the year and generally well received by movie goers and critics, the $78 million US/Aussie co-production floundered at the box office pulling in a underweight $19 million on its opening weekend. While it was a hit on home video, it still marked the last solid film in Harlan's career, and the second to last time that Hollywood would trust him with a fat budget. His follow-up feature film was the $72 million Sly Stallone clunker DRIVEN (2001) that would pull in a paltry $12 million and ran Harlan’s big studio career directly into a brick wall. Damn shame too as I would have liked to have seen a big budget sequel to PRISON (1988).