"47 Meters Down" Is Dead In The Water

Dimension Films’ shark thriller “47 Meters Down” aka “In The Deep” was on the clock for an August 2016 straight-to-DVD release when the vaguely named Entertainment Studios swooped in to grant a last minute stay of execution. How last minute? Physical copies of “In The Deep” had already reached retailers. Some ten months after an unceremonious recall, the movie has reverted to its original title and received a surprisingly sturdy theatrical release. Was it worth the hubbub?

To put it floridly, a shark chomping on a discarded typewriter couldn’t have come up with something so unintelligible.

Mandy Moore (“Tangled”) stars as sad, boring person Lisa; Claire Holt (CW’s “The Vampire Diaries”) plays her slightly less boring sister Kate. Together they make one of the dumbest duos in movie history, doing everything in their power to end up as shark food. While on vacation in Mexico, the two hatch a plan to get Lisa her ex-boyfriend back. They’ll get pictures of boring Lisa doing something not boring – like swimming with 25-foot great white sharks!

Behind the safety of a cage, of course; an old, rusted cage dangling from the back of an ancient dinghy with a horrible name (“Sea Esta”), operated by a hippie gringo (Matthew Modine) who serves almost no purpose within the narrative except to force the girls to lie to about having SCUBA diving experience. Only then do we get to the really stupid stuff.

After five minutes of prime shark viewing comes an inopportune, but let’s face it, unsurprising winch failure. Lisa and Kate find themselves in a cage on the ocean floor, a bit deeper than their intended five-meter viewing point, facing limited oxygen reserves and a position just out of range of hippie Matthew Modine’s radio. What do they do? They realize that their only chance is to do nothing: remain calm, subsist on short sips of air, and pray that help reaches them.

Just kidding.

Lisa and Kate expend as much energy and oxygen as fast as possible, yammering nonstop, climbing in and out of the cage to confirm with the boat via radio that, yes, they are in mortal danger and, yes, that they need help. It does not dawn on either of them that telling long, wistful stories and the resulting laughter is not a great way to conserve oxygen, nor does it dawn on writer-director Johannes Roberts that if his characters are going to talk when they shouldn’t be talking that at least they could have something remotely compelling to say.

Almost none of this is endearingly stupid, just regular stupid, and a stupid late-movie twist serves as an overly presumptuous middle finger to audiences – presumptuous in that it assumes that anyone will still care about what they’re watching. No, we’re here for the sharks, and while the special effects are surprisingly good, there isn’t enough of them. No, in lieu of more shark-munching action, the picture’s biggest thrill is in watching the girls’ oxygen bars deplete; not because we want them to die, but because it means the movie’s ending is that much closer.

2016’s “The Shallows” wasn’t an epochal shark movie but it was an honest one, with no delusions of grandeur and no lying to its audience. “47 Meters Down” unfurls with the unearned emotionality of a truly bad movie, but without much in the way of thrills. It’s stuck in lousy movie purgatory, lodged between irritating and inept, completely unaware of its own failings. It could see the life on DVD it was originally intended for – its characters’ inanity might lend itself to background party viewing – but it deserves even less.

Even Entertainment Studios, the company best known for “America’s Court With Judge Ross,” should have known better than to get on board with such a dud.

-J. Olson

Rating: ★ 1/2 out of ★★★★★ (Bad)

Release Date: June 16, 2017
Studio: Entertainment Studios
Director: Johannes Roberts
Screenwriters: Johannes Roberts, Ernest Riera
Starring: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine, Chris J. Johnson, Yani Gellman, Santiago Segura
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of intense peril, bloody images, and brief strong language)