Entertainment Weekly

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Article

The ''Deep Blue Sea'' cast explains what action films do all wrong

Samuel L. Jackson, for one, says he’s sick of victims who go looking for trouble

Posted on

Samuel L. Jackson
Merie W. Wallace

The weekend’s No 3. film, ”Deep Blue Sea,” contains such conventions of the action/horror genre as gratuitous bikini-clad deaths and false alarms building to an inevitable attack. But it has enough surprises — including some truly unpredictable shark feedings — to make this noisy flick stand out from more… um… ”Placid” big-screen efforts. Seeing as ”Deep Blue Sea” made an effort to crush some clichés, who better to ask what most other thrillers do wrong than the film’s stars, Samuel L. Jackson and Saffron Burrows, and director Renny Harlin?

LESSON #1 OKAY, WE’LL BUY DODGING BULLETS, WE’LL ACCEPT OUTRUNNING FIRE… BUT WE HAVE OUR LIMITS!

Making sure that logic isn’t totally abandoned for the sake of a great stunt is a lesson Harlin learned the hard way while making ”Cliffhanger”: In an early preview, he included a scene of Sylvester Stallone leaping from one mountain to another. ”The audience was really with the story, and when that stunt happened, they just got furious and practically left the theater,” the director tells EW Online. ”I learned there are strict rules in films. If you build a reality and hook the audience into it, you have to stick with it. If you go too far in your effort to entertain, you take away the very basic rules that people are relating to and they feel betrayed, you lose them, and everything else is wasted.” Although the Stallone jump remained in the trailer, it got axed from the film’s final cut.

LESSON #2 DON’T GO INTO THAT ROOM. SERIOUSLY, DUMB ASS.

It’s the most rehashed cliché, but horror flicks continue to let their characters be far too curious about what’s making that creepy noise, says Jackson, who plays a shark-obsessed billionaire. ”When a character is in a house and a light goes off in a particular room and there’s a noise, you wouldn’t go into that room and see what the hell that noise was, you’d go the other way,” he explains. ”But most times, it’s ‘What was that?’ and then they go in.” Jackson believes in doing what the average audience member would do, which usually is to run for the hills. ”Don’t be extraordinary, be ordinary,” he says.

LESSON #3 WOMEN SHOULD DRESS SENSIBLY FOR TERROR

Sure, sex sells. But does every young damsel in distress need to be wearing a nightie or tight-fitting T-shirt? ”Women in these films are just silly, aren’t they?” says Burrows, who stars as the icy head of ”Sea”’s shark project. ”As a kid I remember seeing a character in high heels running for her life and I would get really annoyed in the theater, because I wanted her to take them off.”

LESSON #4 DRAW THE LINE ON BAD DIALOGUE. GET IT? DRAW THE… LINE?

Resist the urge to pun. ”Deep Blue Sea” isn’t immune to the occasional seafood wordplay (in one early scene, Michael Rapaport asks, ”Who ordered the fish?” when a shark is brought out of the water. Ha!). But there were far fewer of these than there could have been. ”Sometimes movies try too hard to be witty with the one-liners,” says Harlin. ”We were careful not to fill the movie with lines like, ‘Something smells fishy.’ That’s a real danger, when the audience feels like, ‘Oh, come on.”’ Good point, chum.