Director: Kimble Rendall
Cast: Phoebe Tonkin, Julian McMahon, Sharni Vinson, Alex Russell, Lincoln Lewis, Xavier Samuel, Qi Yi Wu, Adrian Pang
Runtime: 1 hr 36 mins
Rating: NC-16 (Gore & Violence)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 25 October 2012
Synopsis: A freak tsunami traps shoppers at a coastal Australian supermarket inside the building ... along with a pack of tiger sharks.
At some point in cinematic history, shark thrillers became fodder for B-movie material, and not even the recent revival of the third dimension could rescue the subgenre from its fate (as the recent addition of ‘Shark Night 3D’ will ably demonstrate). So it’s a sad fact that a movie like this Australian- Singapore co-production ‘Bait 3D’ – whose premise can be essentially summed up as ‘sharks in a supermarket’ – will no doubt be regarded as one right from the get-go, and would have to work doubly hard in order to swim its way out of B-movie waters.
Unfortunately, neither director Kimble Rendall nor his screenwriters Russell Mulcahy and John Kim manage to restore much lustre to the ‘shark movie’ with their earnest attempt at crossing a creature thriller with a disaster flick - trapping a ragtag group of strangers in a partially submerged supermarket store with two hungry Great Whites following a tsunami. Not only are the character types which they fill the movie with forgettable, you can almost tell in which sequence they will become fish food, which pretty much takes away a large part of the suspense to be had.
Key to the plot – and therefore the hero that won’t die - is Josh (Xavier Samuel), whom we learn from the pre-titles sequence loses his buddy Rory (Richard Brancatisano) to a Great White, just after his bachelor party meant to celebrate his engagement with Rory’s sister Tina (Sharni Vinson). Picking up one year after the tragedy, Josh is still wracked by guilt and grief, passing his days as a shelf-stacker at a local supermarket. As narrative necessities dictate, he runs into Tina on that fateful day, the latter in tow with her Singaporean boyfriend Steven (Qi Yuwu).
Meanwhile, other supporting characters – also known as the ones who will die at some point or another – pop up, including the uptight store manager Jessup (Adrian Pang), the store clerk Ryan (Alex Russell) he fires after catching the former’s girlfriend Jaime (Phoebe Tonkin) shoplifting, the local sheriff Todd (Martin Sacks) who also happens to be Jaime’s exasperated dad, and a pair of thugs Kirby (Dan Wyllie) and Doyle (Julian McMahon) about to rob the store. When the wave hits, everyone else, except Ryan and a pair of horny teens about to make out in their vehicle (Lincoln Lewis and Cariba Heine) in the underground carpark, are stranded in the half-submerged mart.
Conveniently, one shark circles the supermarket floor while the other the carpark, allowing two locations from which the action unfolds. In terms of thrills, the former wins hands down, as Rendall stages the obligatory kills with sufficient creativity so each one does not appear a repetition of the last. In addition, he builds the tension aptly before every chomp and utilises just enough gore in each sequence to convey fear (but not too much that it ends up too cheesy) – so even if the extra dimension doesn’t exactly add another layer of terror, there’s already more than enough happening to keep you hooked.
Even though much of the excitement unfolds above, what happens under proves unexpectedly entertaining thanks to some low-key humour from the teenage couple Kyle (Lewis) and Heather (Heine). Most amusing is a sequence where the pair attempt to swim to safety and rescue Heather’s poodle at the same time, which ends in said pooch being thrown to the sharks – only to make an unexpected return later on. In a movie that threatens to take itself too seriously, some levity is always welcome – and the seemingly unnecessary addition of two blond airheads proves inspired.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Adrian Pang and Qi Yuwu’s participation in this movie. The two most visible bearers of Singapore’s participation in an otherwise Aussie production, both are relegated to largely forgettable supporting roles. At least Pang’s character gets a memorable sendoff (which the trailer has so unabashedly revealed), Yuwu is on the other hand given an even shorter end of the stick by being forced to utter some cringeworthy lines in his barely-can-make-it English – and when even we have difficulty understanding him, we can’t quite help but wonder how the filmmakers believe that we will buy into his relationship with Tina.
Aside from Pang and Yuwu, the rest of the Aussie cast are just as mediocre. Samuels is just about as bland a leading actor as you can get, and shares little chemistry with Vinson in their few intimate scenes together. Even McMahon’s bad-guy-turned-good character is too tame to make much of an impression, and we need not say more about the other supporting members. Humans aside, the sharks are quite visibly animatronic, and show too little signs of life to convince that they move anything like the real creatures.
With its flaws, it’s no wonder that ‘Bait 3D’ doesn’t manage to extricate itself – let alone its genre – from B-movie territory. Even with trashy expectations, you’d likely find yourself wanting more visceral gore and thrills like in ‘Piranha 3D’. No doubt the film’s intentions of making a respectable shark movie won’t be lost on the audience, but one suspects that with the plethora of such flicks out there, just being mediocre is hardly enough. And that’s exactly what ‘Bait 3D’ is – an all-too average creature thriller that fails to distinguish itself from the pack.
(A standard issue creature thriller that quickly wears out the novelty of seeing Adrian Pang and Qi Yuwu in a movie with international profile)
Review by Gabriel Chong