What do we know about Bull Sharks? Plenty, if, like me, you are a fan of the annual teeth and fin-a-thon known as Shark Week on The Discovery Channel. In fact, about two years ago they ran a show that was both informative and unintentionally hilarious called “Anatomy of a Shark Bite” wherein shark researcher Erik Ritter proclaims that he has figured out the behavior patterns of Bull Sharks and knows how to keep from being attacked.
Ritter is performing this stunt for erstwhile nature show host Nigel Marvin (who was in turn filming an episode of his show “Watch Me Handle This Extremely Dangerous Yet Misunderstood Animal And Not Get My Nuts Bitten Off”) which, as far as I can tell, never aired except as part of Anatomy of a Shark Bite.
In a touch of ichthyologic irony one of the Bull Sharks bites off Erik Ritter’s calf muscle just as he is explaining how these animals, while dangerous, are misunderstood, and won’t bite him if he doesn’t act like prey.
Whoops. I guess no one gave the shooting script to the sharks.
But aside from eating naturalists, Bull Sharks are an otherwise untapped resource for monster animal movie makers because, unlike their cousins, the Great Whites, Bull Sharks have a penchant for swimming far up river, even into fresh water lakes and staking out territory among the mangrove roots and Cajuns of Louisiana (among other states). Bull Sharks are also territorial and will attack not only to investigate a food source (i.e. surfers), but to defend said territory from interlopers (i.e. surfers).
Anyway, someone at Sony Pictures Television must have seen this show, and read a bit out Bull Sharks, and thought, “Killer Bull Sharks? Now that’s an angle no one has tried yet! Get Lou Diamond Phillips and Coolio on the phone!” Hence the subject of our exercise today, Red Water, not the most creative title for not the most creative menacing shark movie.
Red Water was shot for TBS or TNT (both are sort of the same) and has about the same quality as a typical direct-to-DVD nature gone wild film that springs from the mind of Dmitry Badfilmova and released through Unified Films Organization (UFO Films… remember, you can’t spell Unbelievably Fucking Odorous without U.F.O.…). However, unlike the typical direct-to-DVD fare Red Water actually features three actual movie stars in place of several gratuitous boobie shots … well, sort of, and who are these luminaries of the screen? Why none other than Lou Diamond Phillips, Kristy Swanson, and Coolio!
Lou Diamond Phillips, as we all know, hit the screen back in the late 80’s with the mega hit biopic LaBamba where he portrayed doomed Hispanic rocker Ritchie Valens then, inexplicably, his career took the same sort of dive as the plane that killed Valens, The Big Bopper, and Buddy Holly. Before long he was starring as the second banana in TV movies and bad direct to video dramas like Shadow of the Wolf and Bats.
Kristy Swanson, no doubt between long sessions mutilating Sarah Michelle Gellar based Buffy the Vampire Slayer dolls and splattering Joss Whedon photos with chicken blood and spiced rum while screaming “Fuck you! I’m the chosen one! Fuck You! I’m the chosen one!” and auditions for “Scream Because I think I Know the Urban Legend of What You Did Last Summer Part 8: Cletus’ Revenge”, managed to squirrel enough time away to make Red Water. And her disinterest in the part is almost as visible as the channel bee in the lower right corner of the screen. She doesn’t act, she reads, and she reads badly.
And Coolio, who at one time was THE rapper with a gold record for Gangsta’s Paradise, a lawsuit against Weird Al Yankovic for his superior Amish Paradise parody, and a few choice roles in er… nothing really. His roles have all been crap. Now here he is playing the exact same character as all the others, Coolio. Way to stretch that talent my man…
Why, we first meet husband and wife team John Sanders (Lou Diamond Phillips) and Dr. Kelli Raymond (Kristy Swanson), an estranged husband and wife team of er… oil drilling guy and er… geologist chick on a special experimental oil drilling rig in the middle of the Atchafalaya River of Louisiana. Why is their marriage falling apart? I have no idea. That bit of plot filler must have happened between the ad block featuring Viagra, Coors Light, and Ford Trucks, and the ad block featuring Dodge Ram, Ciallis, and Samuel Adams. By then I was lulled into a state of consumerist catatonia and the film part in between was a blur.
Anyway, the rig makes sense, as it’s experimental, so no one really expects to hit pay dirt except the leader of this expedition Gene Bradley (Gideon Emery) a guy who hits a high nine on the self-important-asshole-scale.
Joining the crew are potential shark entrées Hank Ellis (Charles Dumas) and Emery Brousard (Rob Boltin) and a few other oilrig workers who don’t have names listed at the IMDB.
But the film doesn’t really begin at the rig, it begins at the shoreline where the Bull Shark starts eating people as it heads up river. It takes a woman at the beach who is also the daughter of a chemical plant owner (the chemical plant is upstream), then a grandfather fishing with his grandson, and finally an obnoxious eco-tourist and tour guide railing against the chemical plant. And while this seems like standard fare for a typical shark run amok film, the tone changes and Red Water drifts inexorably from fun shark movie into convoluted heist/kidnapping drama.
See, Brett (Langley Kirkwood), Ice (Coolio), and Jerry (Jaimz Woolvett) are looking for a strongbox filled with stolen money, and that money happens to be right near the experimental oil drilling platform on the Atchafalaya River. Well hooray for us.
Meanwhile, the sheriff, who arrives at the rig by helicopter (yet never manages to land the thing or get out), informs the crew that the town has put up a $100,000 reward for killing the shark. This loaded gun will be shot as us later, so don’t be surprised when I mention it.
When the gang of thugs and the drilling team argue about their proximity to the rig, and that the part of the river where the rig is, is off limits, the thugs unleash their thugginess in the form of Coolio.
Ice, as Coolio’s character’s name continuously reminds us of better rappers/actors T and Cube, shoots expedition leader Gene Bradley in the leg. Way to draw attention to your nefarious plans Ice… You have to wonder why gangs of criminals always take on that one lunatic loose cannon who will inevitably bring the whole enterprise down when they snap and start shooting up the place. Look at Ice’s onscreen colleagues, Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) in Reservoir Dogs, shoots up the jewelry exchange, grabs a hostage, cuts off said hostage’s ear, and Maggot (Tele Savalas) from The Dirty Dozen who throws the whole infiltrate and kill all the Nazi’s plan into chaos when he has a religious epiphany and kills the woman he’s raping while Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson try to “blend” with the Nazi brass.
See, never, ever, let the crazy guy come along. It never comes out well when the crazy guy is the trigger man.
But since Jerry and Brett never read the Hall of Shame, they wouldn’t know this, and let Coolio come along so he can:
1 – be a stunningly awful stereotype
2 – Completely fuck up the mission by waving his gun around like Charlton Heston at an NRA preschool turkey shoot
Now with Gene’s leg bleeding profusely the sheriff decides to make another guest appearance via helicopter and loud speaker. Brett, Ice, and Jerry hole everyone up inside and send John Sanders out to reassure the cops that everyone is alright. He tells them that they are all having lunch (and does so by biting an apple, then throwing it in the river). This placates the sheriff who reminds him that the shark hasn’t been caught yet and the reward is growing.
Inside the rig things are no so happy as Gene is slowly dying from loss of blood. They apply a tourniquet but Dr. Kelli makes them release it so he doesn’t lose the whole leg. She begs (and by that I mean reads the lines that say) to let Gene be taken off the rig to the hospital, but Brett, Ice, and Jerry know that as soon as Gene is anywhere near a cop he’s going to spill the whole hostage drama.
Nope, he can’t go. Better still, Ice wants to kill everyone just to make sure there aren’t any loose ends.
Uh… I think the sheriff finding an oilrig full of bullet-riddled corpses is a pretty big loose end, but I digress.
Adding to the commotion as the sheriff leaves, the oilrig drill (which has been going on unmanned for some time now) hits a pocket of methane gas so the hole has to be capped before the methane blows the place to smithereens. Of course, because all of the crew is on the support ship and not the rig, they have to scramble just as the control panel showers them with sparks and refuses to shut the valve.
They do manage to get the drill out of the well though, and the camera lingers on it for what seems like a long time until you realize, “that’s going to kill the shark later” then it lingers some more in case you didn’t figure it out.
Taking the role of “first oil rig guy eaten by plastic shark head” is Hank Ellis, the “rational veteran of several oilrigs guy”. He is also articulate and black, so he has to be the first of the crew to die. Hank dives down to the base of the rig, which appears to be about 15 or so feet deep, and starts to turn a big valve.
We cut to animatronic shark’s eye view as the bull sneaks up on Hank. We cut back to Hank in time to see someone off screen thrust a big plastic Bull Shark head at him. John watches as an explosion of blood erupts beside the rig, then, heroically, grabs a big-assed iron weight, and leaps into the water. Hank is long gone by now but John manages to close the valve averting the worst of the explosion, and make it back to the surface just as the Bull Shark does the animatronic fin dance behind him.
Big Cajun guy Emery and Dr. Kelli argue about the best thing to do to keep the shark from eating John. They tell him to stay still and not look like a prey item, which is impossible, so John says “to hell with that” and swims for the boat. He makes it out of the water just as the Bull Shark reaches him.
This is sort of strange as the shark has already demonstrated behavior that, should anyone have cared about continuity, would have led to the deaths of John, Emery, and Dr. Kelli by leaping out of the water and snatching them all off the stern of the dive boat.
Alas though, such was not to be.
We cut to commercial, this time we are being sold an ad for Foxwoods Casino where several little people dressed as leprechauns are freely gambling away their pot of gold on the nickel slots and being raped of bigger bills at the $50 blackjack table, receiving massages from expensive escorts, and disco dancing between girlish pillow fights.
This commercial makes me want to punch things…
Back from that short trip to leprechaun hell, the oil rig explodes sending several extras, flaming, into the river where the shark presumably eats them.
Just how big is a Bull Shark stomach anyway? So far this fish has eaten four people, that’s at least 400 pounds of food in an animal that digests slowly as it’s cold blooded. I am guessing most non-movie Bull Sharks would have swum off for a nice nap after eating the first person. But hey, all I have is the Discovery Channel, what do I know?
Now with the criminal’s boat out of commission and the oil rig in flames everyone still alive is relegated to the support boat still tied beside the flaming rig. Brett has Ice put everyone in cold storage (it’s a pun, get it!), even Gene, who is blue from loss of blood. Brett decides it’s time to take out the shark and shows Jerry and Ice that he’s salvaged two sticks of dynamite and two flares from their ruined boat. He affixes the dynamite to two spears (one stick each) and jumps into the water to kill the shark.
But, as we all know, plans like this (especially only about half way through a TV broadcast movie) this isn’t going to work. Brett manages to light one stick and shoot the shark, but the dynamite is a dud. Worse, the spear REALLY pisses off the shark so he has to swim for his life. Rather than head back to the surface where the shark can eat him before the next commercial break, he swims for a wrecked car laying about fifty feet away from the base of the oil platform. How someone managed to sink a car there is anyone’s guess, but he gets inside as the shark tears off the doors to get to him.
According to the IMDB the car has the same license plate as the one pulled from the belly of the shark in Jaws (you know, when Richard Dreyfus does the autopsy bit before hooking up with Sheriff Brody and Quint…) but I couldn’t tell because TNT, the channel where I viewed this, insisted on putting up a giant “You are watching RED WATER” sign every six frigging minutes then alternated it with another sign encouraging me to watch The Closer where Kyra Sedgewick interrogates people and thus desensitizes the American public to interrogation no doubt part of the government plot to make us all into Republican zombies.
I realize that this is TV and all, and so I have to make some concessions for advertisements and stuff, but man, these things took up almost half the screen. Gimme a fucking break, I already have the channel bee (about 5% of the screen) onscreen every second so I can be constantly reminded that I am watching TNT and not CNN or some other fucking monster shark movie showing channel, but goddamn half the fucking screen.
Again Brett’s dynamite plan fails and Brett flees for the surface as the shark gives chase.
He survives, much to the chagrin of the audience.
Back aboard the boat Gene dies in John’s arms. John, of course, tells him that his rig made the big score and oil is no doubt already gushing up the pipeline.
Brett comes to get Dr. Kelli, and no he isn’t interested in her PHD. He takes her to his cabin and attempts possibly the most inept threat/seduction ever captured on film. He offers to let her join his gang. She says no. He offers her money. Again she says no. Finally he puts a knife to her throat. Still she says no.
Back to the dugout Brett…
Meanwhile Ice decides that Jerry should kill all the other hostages and dump them over the side for the shark to take care of Jerry manages only into getting a serious ass kicking at the hands of John and Emery.
John escapes leaving Emery to continue unleashing his Cajun whoop ass on Ice’s head and neck. John sneaks into the cabin where Brett and Kelli are having their moment together. Of course, because this is a movie, Brett has no peripheral vision and can’t see anyone who isn’t in his direct line of sight. Kelli, being the stunning actress that she both in the role (and her real life as Kristy Swanson) alternates between looking at Brett and at John as soon as John enters the room.
Brett never catches on (because he’s an idiot).
John scavenges a big pistol from Brett’s sea bag (a magnum I think) and demands that Brett let her go. John walks Brett out to the deck. By now Coolio, who was just smoking a fatty (*stereotype alert) realizes something’s amiss. The earlier scene had him dancing around to a boom box blaring a Coolio song while smoking a blunt.
Anyway, Ice has a poorly orchestrated shootout with John until John’s gun runs out of bullets and gets thrown over the side. Ice is pissed and argues with Brett that all of the crew should be killed and dumped overboard, but Brett needs them to night dive and collect the cash box. There is an argument about who will go. Brett wants Jerry to take Emery and John, but Emery can’t swim. Dr. Kelli volunteers in his place.
The three divers head down to the bottom of the river. Of course, the shark is waiting for them, and promptly chomps down on John’s air tank (just after he finds the magnum in the sand) and swims away with him in his mouth. Meanwhile Jerry recovers the box and he and Kelli swim to the surface.
Careful viewers (and Scuba enthusiasts) will note that the water is surprisingly clear and not tinted with the typical rusty brown of tannic acid from decaying leaves. In fact, visibility is so good one might think this was shot in a pool… Hmmmmmmmm. I suppose we have to accept this though as watching divers blunder around in near impenetrable murk would make for an even more excruciating experience than normal.
Ice is thrilled that they have the money and Jerry has the combination to the lock, or so we are told in expository dialogue. Kelli wants to go back down and look for John. But now that they have the money, none of the thugs give a shit what either she or Emery do let alone what happened to John below the surface.
Meanwhile, John manages to wriggle free of the shark’s mouth and climb up onto the oilrig, but the shark gives his foot a good bit as he gets out of the water. This wound, while serious, will miraculously heal in the next five minutes as he sneaks around on the rig.
Casual viewers will have noticed by now that the rig is approximately five feet from the riverbank so at any time the characters should be able to jump down from the right onto solid ground and run away into the woods.
None of them does this though, but it provides more than few laughs to scream “Why not run into the woods, they’re only FIVE FEET AWAY!” whenever the characters drone on about their predicament and struggle to formulate an escape plan.
Back inside the boat Jerry says he doesn’t remember the combination so Ice shoots at the box until almost all of his bullets have run out. When Brett tells him to knock it off, Jerry stabs him in the back. Oops, it seems that Jerry and Ice were in cahoots the whole time and were using Brett to get them to the money.
As if anyone watching the film even pretends to give a shit about this dynamic at this or any other point during the film. Brett staggers out onto the deck, drops into the water and is eaten.
Meanwhile, John stages another rescue attempt by shooting (poorly) at Ice with the magnum that has magically reloaded on the river bed. He misses Ice but manages to shoot the gas tank of the boat, which explodes, sending Emery flailing into the water with Ice and Kelli. Jerry doesn’t get off so lucky as he’s consumed by the fire and killed.
Ice has the trunk of cash, which the shark promptly bites and opens. Now dozens of twenty dollar bills are floating in the river with Ice madly scooping them up. He cries out that “yeah! I am the shark baby!” fans the wet money, and is eaten by the shark who manages this time to jump out of the water and land on Ice, mouth first.
Kelli helps Emery to the oilrig crane that John is now piloting. He escapes, but the shark is circling Kelli. John leaps into the water to save her. Emery gets up on the rig as John and Kelli swim underneath but can’t get the top hatch open to free themselves. The shark is leaping and snapping at their feet now (John’s foot, of course, is healed). John tells Emery to start the drill and open the drilling hatch, which he does. There is some really unnecessary tension building here as the two try to communicate but can’t. it’s almost meant to be comic relief as we know no other human characters are going to die but it doesn’t work. It just slows down the end sequence to fit TV broadcast length.
Gee thanks TNT.
Finally, following John’s cry of “Open your mouth you ugly bastard!” Emery releases the drill into the gaping maw of the shark and kills it.
Blood, viscera (well, not really as this was made for TV), and a moment of climbing later, the three manage to sit together on deck as the sun rises and the sheriff appears again in his helicopter.
Hooray, end movie, buy Viagra, Ford Pickup Truck, go to Foxwoods, beat leprechauns into chum, feed slurry to sharks.
Okay, so Red Water is bad, but it’s not quite as bad as Shark Zone or Shark Attack 2 but it’s damn close. I mean, when TV production companies are creating films in the model of Shark Zone and Shark Attack 2 rather than just buying them from the Bulgarians you have to wonder. I know the Sci Fi Channel decided recently that it was cheaper, and made for better films, if they produced their monster pics in-house, so maybe Red Water as an experiment by TNT helped spur them on that decision. I don’t know, and frankly, don’t really care. It’s a bad shark film, like most shark films.
One thing that Red Water DOES have going for it is that none of the footage appeared to be stolen from our friends at The Discovery Channel and they actually managed to put some half decent if not moderately effective shark effects together.
Still, the script was crap, so was the acting, plot, characters…
And the commercials. Man it’s relentless! I hadn’t really noticed just how many commercials there are on broadcast/cable TV until I had a son who liked Nickelodeon (five minutes of SpongeBob, six minutes of Bratz Dolls, McDonalds, and Worship Jamz) but it’s just as bad at night when the kids are asleep. The way the commercial clock worked was like this, at 10:05 the movie started, at 10:20 there were seven minutes of commercials, at 10:30 there was a station ID (in the form of a popup sign on the screen) at 10:35 another six minutes of Leprechauns, cock hardeners, and shitty beer, at 10:53 a popup ad for The Closer or Law and Order, then popup station ID, then at 11PM another five minutes of ads.
That’s like (whipping out calculator)… Eighteen minutes of bad movie per half hour.