At one time, I thought John Stockwell was one of the most underrated directors in Hollywood. He boasted a fresh, glossy visual style and a simple, direct approach to characters, and he turned potentially trashy, cliched movies like Crazy/Beautiful and Blue Crush into engaging, vibrant experiences. But Stockwell followed those two movies by taking on increasingly questionable projects, from the vapid if pretty Into the Blue and the dismal horror movie Turistas down to a number of barely released obscurities and the much-maligned Nat Geo TV movie Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden.
Dark Tide is one of Stockwell's projects that barely made it to theaters, although given its lead performance from Halle Berry, that's somewhat surprising. Berry's star power is the only thing this movie has going for it, though, and even she doesn't exactly bring anything exciting to her role as supposed "shark whisperer" Kate Mathieson. Following a tragedy that takes the life of one of her team members, Kate gives up frolicking with sharks for good, until her slimy ex (Olivier Martinez) recruits a rich asshole who will pay big money to have Kate teach him to swim with sharks.
This sounds like the setup for your typical shark-attack thriller, but Dark Tide doesn't get to what would be the beginning of that kind of movie until its final 20 minutes, when the boat containing Kate and her crew capsizes in shark-infested waters during a storm. By that point, the movie has already spent more than 100 minutes on Kate's boring angst, her dysfunctional relationship with her ex, the rich dude's issues with his son, and other mundane, uninteresting personal drama. Stockwell, who conveyed beautiful ocean imagery in Blue Crush and Into the Blue, fails completely on the visual front here, and the underwater scenes are so murky and confusingly edited as to be almost entirely incomprehensible. For a couple who met during filming and are now married, Berry and Martinez have no chemistry, and none of the other actors can bring any life to their characters, either. In most shark-attack movies, there would at least be the satisfaction of seeing these cardboard characters entertainingly eviscerated, but Dark Tide denies its audience even that basic pleasure.