Thursday, August 08, 2013

Shark Week 3: 'Bait' (2012)

It represents some sort of failure on the part of the filmmakers that Bait is not titled Supermarket Sharks. Stupid, catchy titles have been the recipe for success when it comes to recent low-budget shark-attack movies (think Sharknado, Sharktopus, Sharks in Venice), but Bait seems to have higher ambitions. Despite the premise of the movie literally involving sharks in a supermarket, the title is instead a more generic (albeit briefly relevant), theoretically classier name for a thriller that tries to inject real drama into its silly setup. That setup involves a tsunami striking the coast of Australia, flooding a supermarket and trapping a handful of people inside. The tsunami has brought some wildlife along with it, and Bait features one shark menacing a small group inside the supermarket, while another shark menaces survivors in the underground parking garage.

A shark prowling the aisles of a grocery store is an inherently silly concept, but director Kimble Rendall and the six (!) credited screenwriters don't play it for laughs. Instead, they focus on the relationship drama among various characters in the supermarket.There's the tortured hero who once watched his best friend/the brother of his fiancee get killed by a shark, and now has lots of shark-related angst. Wouldn't you know it, his now-ex-fiancee shows up in the supermarket with her new boyfriend just before the tsunami hits. Will the new boyfriend die, clearing the way for the former lovers to reunite? Yes, of course he will.

The acting in Bait isn't that bad by B-movie standards (Nip/Tuck star Julian McMahon even has a supporting role), but the drama is pretty unconvincing. The shark attacks are marginally more effective, and while the special effects are dodgy, they are light years ahead of a lot of bargain-basement shark movies. Possibly the weirdest and most distracting thing about this movie is the way that many of the actors sort of halfway affect American accents, despite the movie clearly taking place in Australia and other characters speaking with obvious Australian accents. And it's not even like one or two characters are meant to be American -- the accents waver from scene to scene and line to line for no apparent reason. Bait actually ended up being a pretty large international hit (although not in the U.S.), so maybe the flattening of the accents paid off somehow, but it's just one more element contributing to the generic, lifeless tone of what could have been a much more fun movie.

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