Director: Johannes Roberts
Cast: John Corbett, Sophie Nélisse, Nia Long, Corinne Foxx, Sistine Rose Stallone
Runtime: 1 hr 30 mins
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 29 August 2019
Synopsis: Four teen girls diving in a ruined underwater city quickly find themselves in a watery hell as their fun outing turns into heart-stopping fear when they learn they are not alone in the submerged caves. As they swim deeper into the claustrophobic labyrinth of caves they enter the territory of the deadliest shark species in the ocean.
If you had seen the first movie, the significance of the title of this sequel will not be lost on you – whereas the former had a pair of sisters (played by Mandy Moore and Claire Holt) trapped 47 metres below the surface while on a cage dive, the latter ‘uncages’ its female protagonists but confines them within a maze-like web of claustrophobia-inducing underwater tunnels.
At the same time, you could say that Johannes Roberts – who returns to write and direct after the modest box-office success of his original – had intended for the title to signify how this sequel would up the ante; although, in that regard, those who remember its predecessor will probably agree that it is a much leaner, meaner and more intense shark peril thriller.
Here, the ones in peril are a quartet of high-school girls. There is Mia (Sophie Nélisse), a loner who hasn’t quite learned to fit in after moving to Yuacatan with her marine-archaeologist dad (John Corbett) so he can explore the ruins of a Mayan city; there is Mia’s step-sister Sasha (Corinne Foxx, Jamie’s daughter), whose mother Mia’s dad had married after Mia’s mother passed away; and there are Sasha’s friends, Alexa (Brianne Tju) and Nicole (Sistine Stallone, Sly’s daughter), who are stuck with Mia because Sasha is.
Than stick to the local tourist attraction of viewing the Great Whites from the bottom of a glass boat, the four girls sneak off to a remote cove that one of Mia’s dad’s assistants had brought Alexa to. After swimming around for some time, they decide why not to also explore the first section or two of the drowned city using the scuba gear at their disposal, which had been left for a larger team of archaeologists who would join Mia’s dad for the expedition.
As you can probably guess, the girls find themselves pursued by a gigantic Great White within the catacombs; and besides being bigger and more ferocious than the predators from the first movie, this one (or should we say, these ones) have evolved in the darkness without eyesight but with other highly attuned senses. It isn’t just the girls who will eventually become chomp though; oh no, as the decaying columns crash, the sharks will also find their way to Mia’s dad and his two assistants, who are on the other side of the city after having found an alternate entrance in.
That the girls should feel lost and disoriented is no excuse for a lack of compelling narrative, which unfortunately Roberts is guilty of here. Not only do the characters randomly find each other within the underwater depths, they are also equally randomly set upon by the beast, whose ability to appear out of nowhere seems almost supernatural. Indeed, you’d only have to look at how the original was held together by logic and coherence to realise how lacking this sequel is in those basic qualities.
What makes it even more frustrating is that the action is difficult to follow, which Roberts attempts to justify as a result of the silt making the water murky. Because the action is unclear, the menace is also largely unimpressive, so much so that the movie has to resort to jump scares in order to keep its audience from drifting away. And like we said, you’d only have to look at the earlier film to recognise where it had succeeded and where this one fails rather miserably, despite the fact that its setup should inspire an even more clear and present sense of dread.
Upping the numbers from two to four also dilutes the character development, such that instead of a tightly knit relationship between two sisters determined to get each other out, we have to contend with the shrillness and selfishness of two additional companions. It doesn’t help that Nélisse and Foxx are less experienced actresses than Moore and Holt, and pretty much forget to act besides alternately freaking out and calling for calm as soon as the sharks appear.
So even though the title promises a much more no-holds-barred affair, this sequel ultimately feels watered down and therefore unnecessary. In expanding the single-location predicament, it reduces what was gripping into something that feels meandering, and loses the excitement and thrills which propelled the original from the depths of the box-office abyss. Whereas we would agree for the first movie to have been rescued from straight-to-VOD, this one feels like it should have gone the other way instead, where you’re advised to leave it anyways.
(Compared to the lean and mean original, this meandering sequel loses itself in a frustrating mess of unclear and unfocused action)
Review by Gabriel Chong