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At The Picture Show
April 2012

Dark Tide


Halle Berry once again finds herself stuck in a forgettable B-thriller in 'Dark Tide'

Dark Tide
Wrekin Hill Entertainment
Director: John Stockwell
Screenplay: Ronnie Christensen and Amy Sorlie
Starring: Halle Berry, Olivier Martinez, Ralph Brown, Mark Elderkin, Luke Tyler, Thoko Ntshinga and Sizwe Msutu
Rated PG-13 / 1 hour, 54 minutes
Now playing in limited release and VOD
(out of four)

Dark Tide isn't so terrible a movie - it's just extremely good at being extremely average at everything it does. It has average ambition, average writing, average acting, average characters and an average story. Not much about it is egregiously bad, but none of it is especially remarkable, either.

What I find curious is how it's been relegated to only a few screens nationwide, otherwise relegated to OnDemand status before moving into a quick DVD release. In other words, the studio had little to no interest in marketing it or releasing it for wide consumption. Usually that means we're looking at a trainwreck. But while Dark Tide isn't much, there are worse movies playing at the multiplexes every week.

This is a perfectly ordinary shark-attack movie. Now, a perfectly ordinary shark-attack movie is, by its nature, not very good, but Dark Tide is certainly no different from the next one.

The character setup is basically like a deep-sea version of Cliffhanger. Kate (the always-magnificent Halle Berry) is a world-renowned shark expert whose great passion in life is swimming with Great Whites. But tragedy strikes when her trusted companion and mentor, Walter (Sizwe Msutu) is torn to pieces on - all together now, folks - his last day on the job.

The event permanently scars Kate and apparently destroys her marriage to Jeff (Olivier Martinez), a videographer. When the story picks up, it's a year later and Kate is down on her luck, nearly broke and spends her days half-heartedly leading wildlife tours on a rickety old boat in Cape Town. (I think it's a rule that all boats owned by central characters in movies must be rickety.) It's implied that she hasn't gone back in the ocean since that fateful day.

Will an opportunity conveniently come along that will force Kate to face her fears and, if you'll pardon the pun, dive back in? Well, I wouldn't want to spoil it, but . . . yes. Yes, that's exactly what happens.

Fate comes in the form of Brady (Ralph Brown), an abrasive rich guy who's willing to pay Kate $100,000 to take him and his son out into the ocean for a good old-fashioned swimming-with-sharks adventure.

Jeff, no longer sporting his wedding ring but clearly still in love with Kate, is along for the ride as well.

Events on the boat begin calmly enough, but then the usual hiccups come into play - the weather picks up a bit, the boat has a sudden mechanical failure, emotional tensions come to a head, etc. Oh, and there are of course scary sharks hovering around the boat as well. Let's not forget about them.

It's easy to see the way the pieces of this movie were put into place. The director is John Stockwell, likely hired due to his familiarity with this terrain, having previously helmed Blue Crush and Into the Blue. (No word on whether Blue Tide was available for a title, but we know for sure that Dark Blue was already claimed.) Berry provides the sex appeal, the gorgeous location shooting in Cape Town and Seal Island, South Africa, provide the background eye candy, and the sharks provide the blood. All the pieces are in place for your typical B-movie thriller, except the proceedings end up so dull, it's almost like Stockwell and Co. forgot to have any fun with the concept.

Berry deserves better than this, of course, but so often she finds herself with exactly this kind of third-rate material. But at least her worst movies (Catwoman, Perfect Stranger) provoke some sort of reaction. Dark Tide gives us nothing of the sort. There's virtually nothing to say about it at all.

Read more by Chris Bellamy

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