DVD Review: Dark Tide (2012)

Posted on October 21, 2012 by Ben 1 Comment

Review by Ben Bussey

Sharks have had to put up with a lot over the years, haven’t they? Kept as pets by Bond villians; blown to smithereens and/or electrocuted by Roy Schieder; facing the wrath of LL Cool J after eating his bird. So how do they fare when pitted against Academy Award® winner Halle Berry? Schieder had the oxygen cannister and the harpoon gun, LL had the gas and the lighter, but Berry has… her motivation!

I wonder what it is with director John Stockwell and sea movies. He seems to do little else. First it was the Kate Bosworth/Michelle Rodriguez surfer flick Blue Crush, then the Paul Walker/Jessica Alba free-diving treasure hunt movie Into The Blue; and now this, which I can only assume would have been entitled Dark Blue were it not for fear of being confused with the Kurt Russell/Ving Rhames police drama from a few years back. Oh, and let’s not forget his partially beach-bound torture movie Turistas (AKA Paradise Lost) with Melissa George. What can we gather from the similarity of this guy’s projects? Does he have a fondness for exotic locations? Does he relish filming attractive women in swimsuits? Or is he just repeatedly typecast as a director? Whether it is some of those things, all of those things or none of those things, we would have no cause for complaint so long as his films delivered the goods – but from what I’ve seen, they generally fail to do so. As to whether Dark Tide is the exception – well, when a film with a big name Academy Award® winner goes direct to DVD, that should give you a bit of a hint.

The opening plays out like an aquatic Cliffhanger. Out on the waves in happier days, Halle bounces around in her bikini without a care in the world, waxing lyrical about sharks to her photographer husband Olivier Martinez’s video camera, whilst flirting unconvincingly with every man on the boat. Bad sign, obviously, and soon one of her nearest and dearest is fish food. X amount of time passes and, naturally, she just can’t bring herself to dive with sharks again – but that’s where the money is, and with her marriage in ruins and her business headed the same way she really needs hard currency. So when her estranged hubby sets her up with a loathsome British rich bloke (Ralph Brown, AKA the perpetually stoned dealer from Withnail & I) who’s prepared to pay through the nose to swim with sharks without a cage, she basically has no choice but to agree. Naturally the small boat is a hotbed of tension immediately; Halle clashes with hubby, rich bloke clashes with teenage son, everyone clashes with rich bloke. Obviously it’s all going to boil up to the point where someone has to get eaten. Sadly, it takes way, way too long to reach that point.

Should we respect the fact that Dark Tide takes a premise with B-movie written all over it, and treats it entirely seriously? I get the impression that’s what they expect the audience to do. That’s what we want in these times, apparently: popcorn flicks that are “dark” and “edgy” and “realistic.” God forbid they might actually be fun, or anything. Dark Tide is determined to beat the audience around the head with its own seriousness, and emphasise how tortured its protagonists are. It gets old really, really fast. If the idea is that all this backstory will add dramatic weight when the shit hits the fan, it might have helped if things went properly south a bit sooner than about twenty minutes before the end. As it is, the jaws of our fishy friends can’t strike fast enough. But alas, even when the sharks do get chomping, the damage isn’t sufficient to satiate our bloodlust against these annoying bastards. Nor is it really enough to warrant the 15 certificate the BBFC have slapped it with – it’s considerably less gruesome than the (unbelievably) 12-rated Jaws. And considerably less good, as if that needed to be said.

And sadly, no: not even multiple glimpses of Halle Berry’s scantily clad torso are enough to keep Dark Tide from being a total waste of time. That said, it may actually come as a surpise how sporadic Berry’s bikini shots are (though Stockwell makes the most of them, squeezing in as many gratuitous voyeuristic shots as he can get away without seeming too sleazy). Sadly, Berry is in this instance less interested in showing off her talents than showing off her talent, in an actorly fashion. But here’s the thing – and please, I can’t be the only one to have noticed this… Halle Berry really isn’t very talented. At all. In fact, she’s really quite a bad actress. I actually haven’t seen Monster’s Ball so I don’t know whether her Academy Award® win was justified, but in pretty much everything else I’ve ever seen her in her performances have been utterly forced and unnatural. And guess what; Dark Tide doesn’t break that trend. How she’s remained at the top so long I really don’t know, although the fact that she does still look so scrumdiddlyumptious might have a little something to do with it.

Tedious in the extreme, Dark Tide might look to make a big splash but it delivers little more than a damp splodge. You’d be best off not biting for this one.

Dark Tide is out on Region 2 DVD and Blu-Ray on 22nd October from Revolver.

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One comment

  • zak says:

    I regard Halle Berry as a high level actress whose skill is most evident when she is portraying extreme states. Her brief routines with Samuel Jackson in Jungle Fever were incredible (I think between the two of them and Spike Lee they invented a hideously funny new form – crack vaudeville). Films like Monster’s Ball and Things We Lost in the Fire showcased her more fully, but she has very strong moments even in her flops – her moments of transformation in Gothika are genuinely unearthly and frightening, and her actual characterization of the Catwoman persona was fantastic, even though she was stranded by that ridiculous script. Truth be told, she often picks some fairly lame projects.

    In any case, I think your response to Dark Tide is spot on. I imagine if John Stockwell had been working thirty years ago, he would have been making Emanuelle pictures, and, if he wants to make a career doing soft porn at the beach, where’s the harm? But when such a film fails to deliver even the simple pleasures it promises, it’s hard not to feel betrayed. Halle Berry in a bikini, flanked by picturesque exotic scenery, in which sharks are gratuitously chomping people, followed by Halle Berry (still in said bikini) getting gratuitously medieval on sharks’ asses – where can you go wrong? Except that she generally isn’t in a bikini, half the film seems to be at night, not nearly enough people get chomped, and Halle Berry doesn’t get medieval on anyone’s ass, not even in a bikini. It’s downright hurtful.

    Instead, we get some kind of half-assed improvisational actors’ exercises. Stockwell is no Cassavettes. If she wanted to go dramatic, why did she pick this director? As Roger Corman understood, if you want to experiment a bit in an exploitation flick, that’s fine, but don’t forget to deliver the basics. So now we have her, still at the outskirts of the industry, struggling to extricate herself from the La Brea Tar Pit her poor career choices have landed her in. Hell hath no fury like a B audience scorned.

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