A tiny bit of a step down from the glossy multiplex-friendly “Deep Blue Sea”, this 2003 TV movie may dial down the star wattage somewhat but it doesn’t turn the lights out completely: Lou Diamond Phillips! Kristy Swanson! Coolio! I mean, come on – what more could you want?
Down-on-his-luck boat owner John Sanders is thrown a financial lifeline when his ex-wife Dr Kelli Raymond (Kristy Swanson) charters his boat to take her to a small oil rig to investigate some environmental concerns at the same time gangster Ice (Coolio) and his associates are heading to the same area to recover some abandoned loot from a previous job. And as if that wasn’t enough, a rogue bull shark has swum upriver too.
It’s already an unusually diverse Shark Weak as we still haven’t had an appearance by the usual star of the show, the legendary Great White. “Deep Blue Sea” offered us Mako and Tiger sharks, and “Red Water” brings us the legitimately fearsome Bull Sharks, an aggressive species who are at home in both salt and fresh water.
The film sets itself up structurally as a disaster movie, carefully setting out its disparate clusters of characters who will, eventually, cross paths and have to join forces against the force of nature to survive. There’s a low-key environmental message underpinning the drama with early scenes heavily implying that the banks and corporations are the real sharks. There’s even a hint of mysticism (left largely unexplored by the film) in the suggestion that the bull shark’s appearance is the manifestation of nature objecting to the oil drilling in the bayou.
It’s actually not that bad a film and while it often promises more than it delivers (there’s a point where a tour guide cautions her group to keep an eye out for the Louisiana Black Bear that made me hope against hope for a showdown twixt bear and shark that fails to materialise) but it motors along quite nicely, resting as much of the performance of its experienced leads as it does its kills and effects.
The effects are a curiously mixed bag especially in the early parts of the movie. There are some really poor CGI and a few dodgy model shots but in the final third of the film, there’s also some genuinely impressive model and animatronic work that belies the fact this was a made-for-TV potboiler.
It’s a lean, well-made thriller, part monster movie/ part heist, that avoids many of the clichés such as long treks through forests or time spent away from the water to pad things out that you often see in shark movies and it’s refreshingly down to earth in its approach to the shark. Throw in some well crafted underwater action scenes and you’ve got a movie which, while it won’t win any awards, at least makes it worthwhile to watch a former Buffy Summers trying to avoid some unwelcome toothsome attention once again.