Film

Review: Jason Statham Faces The Meg in a Shark Movie With Bite

Sure, why not?

It’s been about a year since our last people vs. shark movie on the big screen, so let’s throw Jason Statham in the mix just to make things exponentially more interesting. Whether he’s fighting off a couple of bad guys or a group of terrorists or playing the bad guy himself, Statham just somehow makes it easy to break down who it is we’re supposed to root for.

The Meg

Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

With a scowl or prolonged look, we know, for example, in his latest film The Meg that a doctor character (Robert Taylor) is someone we aren’t supposed to trust. Another example in this film about a prehistoric, 70-ft. shark (known as a Megalodon) that surfaces (literally) and begins attacking people is that Statham is constantly trying to kill the damn thing, so it’s pretty certain we’re not supposed to like it either. But I’m guessing he also respects it more than most, especially since its manmade tampering brought the shark back from its watery home in the first place.

Directed by Jon Turteltaub (Cool Runnings, While You Were Sleeping, and the National Treasure films), The Meg opens five years earlier, when Naval Captain Jonas Taylor (Statham), whose expertise is deep-sea diving and rescue, and his team are rescuing people from a submarine that appears (from the inside, at least) to be under attack from a giant…something. Forced to leave several crew members behind and accused by some of hallucinating at the extreme depth, Taylor retires, deciding to drink his days away somewhere far away.

But when an exploratory mission into unchartered areas of the ocean floor goes wrong, seemingly from a similar attack, those in charge—Taylor’s old friend Mac (Cliff Curtis) and project leader Zhang (Winston Chao)—find Taylor to convince him to come back for another rescue. He resists, but when he finds out that his ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee) is among those stranded, he reluctantly agrees.

During the rescue, the vessels essentially disrupt the natural phenomenon that keeps the Megalodon trapped in the furthest reaches of the sea floor, and now it’s free to eat anything in its path—from whales to other sharks to tiny humans. And what it doesn’t eat, it destroys in its attempt to eat. And there’s Statham, cool as a five-foot bag of ice, trying to kill this thing, while others, especially billionaire Morris (Rainn Wilson), who is funding everything we see in the movie, alternate between wanting to capture the creature and wanting to blow it out of the water using enough explosives to take down a small mountain.

The Meg attempts to get mildly deep when it explores Taylor’s fear of failure and causing more people to die—and yes, plenty of people die in this film. But this is Jason Statham; he throat punches fear and death for breakfast and has no issues about coming in direct contact with the Megalodon and riding it like a bucking pony if he has to. The film also has the benefit of having a cool and interesting cast, which includes the likes of Bingbing Li (Transformers: Age of Extinction), Ruby Rose (John Wick: Chapter 2), Masi Oka (“Heroes”), Page Kennedy, and Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, all chipping in when necessary, being funny most of the time, and keeping things moving at a brisk pace.

As the film goes on, it gets more ridiculous as the shark appears to be impossible to kill. There are a few clever lifts/references to moments in Jaws, as one might expect, including a mother-son incident on a crowded beach that seems almost identical (except for the payoff) and another moment involving a missing dog, last seen swimming in the path of the Megalodon. The Meg is smart about how dumb and increasingly implausible it can get, and it’s willing to lose a small piece of your respect if it can make you laugh or cringe as a helpless victim is on the verge of getting swallowed whole.

My only real disappointment is that the movie is largely bloodless, and when you’re dealing with a swimming monster like the one here, you’re almost craving the chance to see its ginormous pointed teeth sink into some flesh and rip off an arm or leg. It’s little things like that that make me happy. We do get some truly intense, dramatic shots of the Meg ripping apart other sea creatures, but it’s not quite the same.

For the most part, the special effects hold up, and director Turteltaub delivers a handful of great scares and even more moments of heightened tension. He plays with scale and wholesale destruction in really fun ways, even if he also can’t resist the appeal of a wedged-in love story and a cute little girl who just happens to be at the center of every dangerous moment. He’s got a killing machine in the water eating people; he doesn’t need the cute factor on top of that. The humor is dark but often quite obvious, and while Statham’s hunky charm goes a long way, even he seems to be barely holding back from rolling his eyes at a few moments in The Meg.

Still, as far as giant monster movies go, this one packs a great deal of bite…even without a whole lot of actual biting.

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