Color, 1999, 105 mins.

Directed by Renny Harlin

Starring Thomas Jane, Saffron Burrows, LL Cool J, Samuel L. Jackson, Stellan Skarsgård, Jacqueline McKenzie, Michael Rapaport / Music by Trevor Rabin / Cinematography by Stephen F. Windon

Format: DVD - Warner (MSRP $24.98)

Letterboxed (2.35:1) (16x9 enhanced) / Dolby Digital 5.1

A rare summer popcorn movie that really delivers, Deep Blue Sea may not be high art, but it's definitely a lot of fun. Deftly merging horror with his spectacular flair for action setpieces, director Renny Harlin has crafted a slick, suspenseful, and satisfying slice of hokum that also packs a strong wallop on DVD.

A wealthy investor (Samuel L. Jackson) flies out to visit a remote ocean-bound research facility, where his funds are supporting a potential cure for Alzheimer's derived from shark brain proteins. The lead scientists, Dr. Susan McAlestar (Saffron Burrows) and Jim Whitlock (Stellan Skarsgård), demonstrate the elaborate methods by which they have developed "super sharks" to provide the protein, thanks to the aid of paroled shark wrangler Carter (Thomas Jane). The experiments prove to be a success, but disaster strikes when one shark manages to escape and deliver a crushing blow to the facility, sending it rapidly sinking underwater. Together the three test sharks invade the watery lab and begin chowing down on the residents until only a handful of survivors remain, struggling to get back to the surface in one piece.

Though hardly an actor's showcase, Deep Blue Sea benefits from some strong bits of characer acting, particularly Jackson's hilarious spin on the know-it-all millionaire (his "big scene" in the middle of the film is one of the year's best). Burrows' distracting resemblance to Harlin's wife, Geena Davis, may be a tad difficult to ignore, but she successfully walks the line between sympathetic researcher and callous God-player, while Jane goes through the action hero motions with great physicality. Trying to pick out who will die (and when) proves to be nearly impossible with this film, which throws some terrific unexpected curveballs throughout its running time and barely pauses for air. The animatronic and CGI shark effects range from outstanding to more than a tad hokey, but these beasts are quite fearsome and great fun to watch; the opening twist on Jaws proves that all of the filmmakers know their stuff and aren't afraid to play around with conventions.

As usual, Warner has delivered a fully loaded DVD with enough extras to easily kill off an entire evening. The film itself looks dazzling in an anamorphic transfer that beautifully showcases the title color, while the explosive Dolby Digital 5.1 mix constantly pumps each speaker full of information from start to finish. This is simply a reference disc all the way and should please even the staunchest home theater enthusiast. Extras include several deleted scenes, all of which add tremendously to the depth of the characters. Skarsgård in particular lost some of his finest moments from the completed cut, and at least his decision to do this film in the first place now makes more sense. Bellows also becomes more finely shaded thanks to an early birthday speech that elaborates on her personal motives. The deleted footage appears to be lifted from a fuzzy work print and is in very rough shape, but it's a welcome addition in any form. Also included is a by-the-numbers but welcome featurette on the shark special effects, some standard behind-the-scenes footage, production notes and photos, and the theatrical trailer. Oddly, the film's notorious original ending (in which one pivotal character's survival was nixed by bloodthirsty test audiences) is not included.

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