Bait Review

The Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. Josh (Xavier Samuel) is a lifeguard. But one day the brother of his girlfriend Tina (Sharni Vinson) falls victim to a shark. Josh and Tina's relationship doesn't survive the grief, and Tina leaves for Singapore. She returns a year later, with a new boyfriend, Steven (Qi Yuwu), in tow.

Much of the first act of Bait is concerned with marshalling Josh, Tina and Steven into the Ocean Mart supermarket along with several other characters, including a pair of would-be armed robbers, shoplifter Jaime (Phoebe Tonkin) and her cop dad (Damien Garvey). Meanwhile, down in the underground carpark, Kyle (Lincoln Lewis) and Heather (Cariba Heine) have found a quiet spot to make out. But something is in the air – quite literally, as flocks of birds behave unusually, and give us a couple of 3D money shots by rushing the camera while they're at it. And we know something's about to happen, as the music score is dominated by an ominously rumbling bass synth. And then a tsunami hits, inundating the supermarket and flooding the car park. For the next hour, the characters try to escape, while something very nasty is in there with them thanks to the giant wave. Two very nasty things. Two twelve-foot great white sharks.

Russell Mulcahy is the co-writer of Bait (with John Kim, four others credited for “additional writing”), an Australian/Singaporan coproduction, and at one point he was going to direct. But the director is Kimble Rendall, who is clearly a man with more than one string to his bow. His directing credits include TV work, music promos and one previous big-screen feature, the slasher movie Cut from 2002, which I haven't seen. But as well as being a director, he's a rock musician, having been guitarist and vocalist in XL Capris, the Hoodoo Gurus and, more recently, Kimble Rendall and The Slice, who contribute a hard-rock version of “Mack the Knife” plays over the final credits. Combining rock music and cinema directing isn't a widely-practised combination, though Rob Zombie comes to mind. As far as Bait goes, his direction is certainly efficient but nothing more than that. With exploitation fare like this, if you promise gory shark-chompings in 3D, you deliver them, so squeamish souls beware, as Bait certainly justifies its 15 certificate (a R in the USA, and a MA in its native Australia). Given that younger viewers are off the agenda, unless accompanied by a parent or adult guardian in the latter two countries, the script doesn't tone down the language either.

You could argue that the characters are two-dimensional types, the younger ones played by graduates from television and supporting roles in film franchises (Samuel from the third Twilight movie and Tonkin from Tomorrow When the War Began, though the latter isn't now getting a sequel). You could assert that some of the acting is weak, and that the shark is too obviously CGI, and no argument from me. But that isn't the point. Bait is trash and it knows it, but it's decently put together trash, and you could do far worse for an hour and a half.

The Disc

A week after a limited cinema run, Bait comes to UK Blu-ray and DVD. This is a review of the Blu-ray (Region B) though a DVD checkdisc (Region 2) was also received. For affiliate links for the latter, go here. Both Blu-ray and DVD have identical extras and both begin with trailers for the 2013 Evil Dead remake, The Last Exorcism Part II and Cockneys vs. Zombies. The only difference is that the Blu-ray gives you the choice of 3D and 2D versions (though the Blu-ray menu calls the film Bait 3D for both) while the DVD is 2D only. This is Australia's first 3D dramatic feature, though not its first 3D film (go here for a review of that), but I am not 3D enabled, so I will note this fact and that the following refers to the 2D version only.

The Blu-ray is in a ratio of 1.78:1, opened up slightly from the theatrical 1.85:1. Bait was digital-captured on the Red One MX at 4.5K resolution. Given that it has travelled an entirely digital path from shooting to Blu-ray authoring, you'd expect it to look pristine, and it does. The film has the now-ubiquitous orange-and-teal look, but no doubt that would have been the case in the cinema too. Blacks are as solid as they should be.

The soundtrack comes in two flavours, DTS-HD MA 5.1 and LPCM Surround (2.0). The former is mixed much louder than the others. It's certainly a very aggressive and immersive soundtrack, pun intended, and the subwoofer gets quite a workout, very obvious from the opening deep rumbles of the sea onwards. This may be an issue with the disc (a checkdisc, not a retail copy) or with my player, but at a few particularly bass-heavy moments, the soundtrack “stuttered” briefly. This wasn't an issue with the LPCM track, nor with the Dolby Digital 5.1 track on the DVD. (The DVD also has a Dolby Surround 2.0 track.) I should note that the trailers for Evil Dead and Cockneys vs. Zombies have a choice of soundtrack, and the 5.1 is particularly noticeable on the former. However, and regrettably, StudioCanal have not provided any hard-of-hearing subtitles for this English-language movie.

The main extra is a making-of documentary (43:54), which begins with Xavier Samuel fluffing his interview and starting again. Along the way, you get interviews with the principal cast and crew members, some techy bits involving the process of shooting in 3D, against a green screen (featuring a distinctly unscary model shark) and in a supermarket built entirely inside a studio and then flooded with water. After all of that, shooting the beach scenes at Coolangatta at the height of summer must have been a relief for the cast and crew.

The remaining extra is the theatrical trailer (2:23).

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