Two hungry sharks are on the prowl in this formulaic creature flick that fleetingly raises its watery head, above its cheap budget thanks to some moments of surprising quality…..
Lets get the elephant out of the room and say that no matter how many shark films they have made since and long after, not one of them will ever match that certain film from Steven Spielberg. JAWS started and ended the shark horror/action genre in 1975 and remains one of the rare classics that is still untouched by the “remake” craze, with no film director, even daring to try and jump back on The Orca with a new take.
Its one of the reasons why films like Sharknado decided to go down the ridiculous plot route and became such a popular silly franchise and even though I weren’t a huge fan, I still respect those who cherish the daftness and the sub genre it has spawned over the years.
There have only been a few that have tried to deliver a more serious tone, with 2010’s The Reef being the main standout, a tale with a vicious shark bite, that has gained a cult following over the years and while a long overdue sequel is being planned, Martin Wilson’s debut picture GREAT WHITE, could easily itself, be that film’s follow up, as it borrows a lot from what made Andrew Traucki’s film so popular, which you could thank Michael Boughen for as he not only produced that film, but has written the script here.
Starting off with the standard cliché slasher set-piece informing us that there is a hungry and nasty shark out there looking for blood, the story soon settles on Charlie (Aaron Jakubenko) and his girlfriend Kat (Katrina Bowden) who run a sightseeing aeroplane tour alongside his friend, a Chef, Benny (Te Kohe Tuhaka).
When Joji (Tim Kano) and his wife Michelle (Kimie Tsukakoshi). sign up for a small grand tour of the Australian skyline and basically to get a ride to a remote stretch of beach, it seems like easy money and to be fair the film refuses to offer just straight out thrills, instead wanting to build a backstory of the characters, no matter how chunky the dialogue gets.
The married couple are clearly having marriage difficulties, with hints of abuse, while we also get the obligatory “I am pregnant” story filler, to an added PTSD offering, with Charlie himself suffering flashbacks having survived a shark attack and having the scars to prove it. The last thing he needs and the rest of the group is to stumble upon half eaten remains of a male on the beach and then realising that the deceased’s partner may be still out there, somewhere in the ocean, desperately needing help.
You’ll only need to have seen one shark movie to know what is coming as the trip soon becomes a nightmare of great proportions as the gang find themselves without a plane and on an emergency raft, while not one, but two large fins, circle their surroundings, thirsty for blood.
Wilson wisely offers more tension, than the big set-piece, with the fleeting glimpses of the CGI sharks making Bruce from JAWS seem like a real life creature, but he does create one or two decent moments that rises the film from many of these creature features that are littering the market. Some nice imagery moves the story along as dialogue is preferred to terror and when the action dial starts to turn, there isn’t too many shocks to who is first on the menu as the sharks finally begin to attack, even though the plot does dips its toes into silliness with the first kill.
The climax does become a bit ludicrous, at odds with its more original grounded approach, but I am guessing GREAT WHITE will divide the huge fanbase those who love these kind of films. If you are in the camp that loves nothing more than the idiotic capers of Zombie Shark, then you can lose a star below as the slow build up and character building will no doubt have you wishing you were watching SHARKNADO 16: “Whoa, they falling from the sky again!“.
But if you in the camp that has no time for the likes of Ghost Shark and love their watery bites more realistic, where less is more adds to the imagination, then add a star as GREAT WHITE will keep you more than entertained on what it is offering.
For the rest of us, we live in hope that maybe one day, someone will finally achieve the impossible and better the work of Steven Spielberg’s watery classic, but until then we, along with those in camp 1 and in camp 2, will keep on watching the same old shark tales and patiently wait for The Reef II: Stalked to hopefully offer something fresh!