Into The Blue Review

Shipwrecks containing six billion dollars worth of treasure lie undiscovered at the bottom of the world's oceans, or so a caption informs us at the end of Into The Blue. Finding just one of those wrecks is the shared dream of Jared (Paul Walker) and Sam (Jessica Alba), a pair of cute but impoverished American scuba divers living in a rusty old shack in the Bahamas. They support themselves with menial jobs in the island's tourist industry while Jared works on fixing his leaky old boat.

It's a welcome distraction when Jared's friend Bryce (Scott Caan), a criminal lawyer, flies in from the States with a blonde beauty named Amanda (Ashley Scott) he picked up only hours earlier. Bryce is on vacation and his law firm has lent him the keys to a grateful client's holiday home and the speedboat that comes with it. It's not long before Jared is leading them on a diving expedition in the crystal clear seas and that's when the foursome stumble across a shipwreck. And not just any shipwreck but potentially the treasure trove Jared has been searching for.

There's also something else down there - a crashed plane packed with bricks of cocaine. A drug shipment gone missing. Jared and Sam refuse to touch the coke, insisting they concentrate their efforts on the wreck. Of course they can't report the drugs either because in the resulting police search, their newly located shipwreck would be discovered by the authorities before they could stake a legal claim. As the Jared and Sam strive to identify the sunken ship, Bryce and Amanda find it harder and harder to resist the temptation of a hundred million dollars worth of cocaine. Meanwhile a sinister third party is watching them and biding his time.

If Into The Blue's plot sounds familiar, you've probably seen The Deep, the 1977 adventure movie based on Peter Benchley's follow-up novel to Jaws. The two films share enough in common that this could easily have been a remake - in fact the Internet Movie Database wrongly lists it as one. In The Deep, vacationing couple Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset chanced across a valuable supply of morphine while scuba diving and attracted the attention of local gangster Louis Gossett Jr. Caribbean drug runners also provide the villains for the action-packed second half of Into The Blue and they're even picked off in much the same ways as Benchley's bad guys - by the heroes in underwater fight scenes or by fierce marine life, specifically tiger sharks. Gore fans will be pleased to note the violence in this film pushes the limits of the PG-13 rating.

The underwater action is outstanding - I've never seen better - and it provides one of the film's two big selling points. The diving scenes are stunningly photographed by professional underwater cameraman Peter Zuccharini. Some of the shots involving divers and sharks are so hair-raising, they make you wonder if they were created using digital trickery, except they look too real. The cinematography above the water is also impressive. The location shots will have you pricing holidays in the Bahamas. Regardless of its other qualities, this is one great looking film.

As for the other big selling point, Into The Blue also imitates The Deep's strategy of exposing as much female flesh as it can without being slapped with an R rating. The 1977 film was famous for putting Jacqueline Bisset in a wet T-shirt. Into The Blue stops short of showing nipples but it does put Jessica Alba in a very skimpy, body-revealing bikini. She's outdone however by blonde newcomer Ashley Scott whose most memorable scene involves her greeting a boatload of Bahamian police officers wearing only a small scrap of gold cloth and a smile. Female readers who are unimpressed with all this can rest assured that male stars Paul Walker and Scott Caan are rarely seen in more than shorts.

If I seem unduly focused on the actors' physical attributes, that's because there's little in their performances to arouse any interest. Paul Walker proves once again that he isn't cut out to be a leading man. He simply doesn't have the charisma that real stars like Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves use to fill out empty action hero parts like this one. The only feeling you have for him is annoyance at the affected way he calls people "bro". Jessica Alba, who was good in Sin City, is merely blank here, her role consisting largely of modelling swimwear. Scott Caan and Ashley Scott come off better. They have a bit more to play with since their characters do at least show some sort of personality. That said, this is not a film to watch for acting tips.

The running time is another, bigger problem. At almost two hours, it's thirty minutes longer than such a flimsy plot can support. The trouble is, most of the material that could be trimmed is the expensive, great-looking underwater footage. The dry land stuff is the necessary plot exposition. That must have left director John Stockwell (Blue Crush) with a painful choice: take out the money shots his budget was spent on or risk boring the audience. In hindsight, he should have made the cuts. Into The Blue at eighty-five minutes might have been a good, trashy B-movie. At a hundred and ten, it's a lavish, beautifully filmed slog.



out of 10

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