We can, and often do, poke a lot of fun at the C-level shark movies for being outright stupid. But sometimes, despite all the wooden acting, flat writing, and basic presentation, flicks like Raging Sharks, Sharktopus, and Shark Attack 3: Megalodon deliver the goods that genre fans are after: crazy shark-related carnage. Characterization, maybe. Tension, possibly. But at the very least a shark movie should give us some actual, well, teeth.
Dark Tide, the endlessly generic new maritime thriller from water expert John Stockwell (Into the Blue, Turistas, Blue Crush), seems so damn happy to have Halle Berry as its leading lady that nothing else got even a cursory thought. The screenplay of Dark Tide, in particular, is an eternal morass of dreary conversations, paper-thin character development, and plot convolutions that were old hat by the time Jaws 2 showed up.
We open with a stupid scene lifted straight of Cliffhanger: a famously courageous marine biologist (Halle Berry, yes) loses a loyal friend to sharks, so she packs up shop and decides to become a boring old tour guide for Australia's most dangerous waters. Then her estranged husband (Olivier Martinez) pops up with a great deal: a dying millionaire (Ralph Brown) wants his wimpy son to "become a man" by swimming alongside the world's most ravenous fish. Yes, this is actually the plot. So Kate the dejected marine biologist, her jerk of a husband, his jerk of a client, his wuss of a son (and a boat captain who might as well be named Red Shirt) decide to trek out to "Shark Alley" and swim with sharks.
That's literally the entire plot of Dark Tide. I just saved you 110 minutes. Yes, I said 110.
There's plenty to dislike about Dark Tide, like that it seemingly exists only to show off Halle Berry in a bikini, but the reward is hardly worth this misery of a movie. To be fair it does feature some rather lovely cinematography (particularly when the "action" moves underwater) -- and that's pretty much the only nice thing I can think of. It's not that Dark Tide is relatively carnage-free and consistently stupid, although it's both of those things, but that the screenplay feels more like a rough draft for a "women have guts" Lifetime Channel movie than any sort of shark-related suspense thriller. And while I have no problem buying a woman as the hero in a killer shark flick, the truth is that Ms. Berry is barely even trying here. There's nothing about her person, her problems, or her predicament that warrants any empathy or interest, and her supporting characters are one-note carbaord cut-outs through and through.
By the time Dark Tide (finally) gets to some potentially provocative shark-intensive exploits, we're stuck in the middle of the ocean with very little in the way of light, story logic, or simple rooting interest. The lead couple go through the motions, the rich jerk rattles off his stock material, the sharks occasionally swim by, Dark Tide keeps lurching forward with its plotless vacancy, and all you're left wondering is how much money it took to got Halle Berry to sign off on this paid vacation. Barring some pretty locations, some nifty shark footage, a few moments of intentional jiggle, and lots of unintentional giggles, there's just nothing there.