Film review: Statham sails into the jaws of a monster B-movie
THE MEG ★★★✩✩ (12A, 113 mins) Director: Jon Turteltaub Stars: Jason Statham, Li Bingbing
Like Johnson’s ludicrous Hong Kong-set disaster film, Jason Statham’s The Meg is a B-movie boosted to gargantuan proportions by a pre-production deal with cinemas in the industry’s fastest-growing emerging market.
And a big budget requires a very big monster, in this case the Megalodon, an 80ft prehistoric shark that has survived extinction by sticking to an underwater trench 200 miles off the Chinese coast. When marine biologist Dr Zhang (Winston Chao) accidentally releases the beast, it falls to Statham’s deep-sea diver to utter the naff one-liner: “Meg versus man isn’t a fi ght, it’s a slaughter.”
If you like your monster movies with a large side order of cheese, you should love the increasingly preposterous ways Statham battles this innocuously named monster.
The plot seems to have been thrown together from a selection of the more memorable moments from Jaws and its sequels.
There’s panic on a tourist beach, a shark attack in a glass underwater tunnel and even a scene with a swimming dog.
But who cares about originality when watching a film as gleefully ridiculous as this?
We begin with Statham’s Jonas Taylor, the world’s toughest deep-sea diver, leading a rescue team through the hatch of an ailing nuclear submarine.
As he expertly scoops up an injured seaman “something” slams into the side of the sub breaching the hull. J
onas makes it on to his rescue vessel with the injured submariner only to learn that two of his team are trapped onboard.
After a tortured look to camera, Jonas closes the hatch and makes his escape, seconds before the submarine explodes.
“What have you done?” asks one very ungrateful survivor. The film then jumps five years.
Jonas has been fired for cowardice (as if!) and lives above a bar in Thailand where he is the world’s fittest drunk.
Meanwhile, a hi-tech submersible is about to breach the icy boundary of a previously unexplored deep-sea trench.
Dr Zhang’s team watch from the control room on a nearby rig as their colleagues enter a lost world of giant sea creatures. Suddenly, disaster strikes.
Jason Statham plays the world’s toughest deep-sea diver
A mysterious “something” slams into their vessel, injuring the captain, disabling their engines and punching a hole in their oxygen tanks.
With two hours to save the crew, Zhang offers Jonas a shot at redemption.
As soon as he casually refers to the stranded captain as “your ex-wife”, we know the disgraced diver will be on board. You’d think this would be more than enough to power a B-movie but it turns out the submarine rescue is just an appetiser.
Director Jon Turteltaub (the genius behind Cool Runnings) also serves up a shark hunt on the open sea, a boat chase and an attack on a packed Chinese beach resort.
There’s even time for romance between grizzled Jonas and Zhang’s shark expert daughter Suyin (Chinese star Li Bingbing).
The dialogue is hilariously naff (even the subtitled bits) and the CGI shark is way too ridiculous to be scary.
But by the time Statham is literally jumping the shark in the climatic face-off. I was completely hooked.
THE DARKEST MINDS ★★✩✩✩ (12A, 104 mins) Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson Stars: Amandla Stenberg, Harris Dickinson
Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, Divergent, The 5th Wave, The Maze Runner… If you have seen any of the above, you’ll feel like you’ve already seen The Darkest Minds – a dystopian science-fiction where superpowered teenagers battle fascist grown-ups.
The only thing that marks it out from the rest of the “Young Adult” crowd is the alarming number of plot holes.
This time the story stops making sense before we even get to the inevitable love triangle.
As in Alexandra Bracken’s series of novels, we are in America in the near future where a highly improbable disease has killed off most of the children and bestowed the survivors with superpowers. The future police state has reacted by herding them into concentration camps, where they are assigned a colour representing their particular power.
Greens have become instant maths whizzes, blues have telekinesis, oranges have Jedi mind control and reds can shoot fire out of the majority of their orifices.
The last two categories are considered so dangerous they are swiftly executed after their superpowerdetecting scan.
Ruby (Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg) is an orange but exploits a glaring flaw in the test by using her superpower to make her examiner think she is a green.
One day, a mysterious woman (Mandy Moore) breaks her out of the camp. She tells Ruby that she’s one of only two surviving oranges and could have an important role to play in a very sketchily defined resistance movement.
But Ruby, perhaps understandably, doesn’t trust grown-ups. After getting a bad vibe from the woman’s partner, she runs off and joins a gang of escapees led by a hunky, brooding blue, Liam (Harris Dickinson).
After a stodgy first act, where someone actually uses a colour-coded chart to explain the setup, the action moves at a fair clip.
Unfortunately, in between chase scenes and smouldering glances, director Jennifer Yuh Nelson gives us little time to mull over the plot.
Would parents really allow the state to round up their children? How will the human race survive without them?
Why are the fugitives casually driving on main roads in a Scooby-Doo-style van? What is so scary about maths?
If this is going to make it to a sequel they will need to find smarter writers and a competent director.
Amandla Stenberg in the centre stars in the sci-fi film The Darkest Minds
THE NEGOTIATOR ★★★✩✩ (15, 107 mins) Director: Brad Anderson Stars: Jon Hamm, Rosamund Pike
As it’s the beginning of the school holidays, grown-up fims are in short supply this weekend but spy thriller The Negotiator, which is on limited release, is worth hunting out for a charismatic turn from Jon Hamm.
The Mad Men actor shows off his leading man credentials as Mason Skiles, an American diplomat who suffers a personal tragedy when terrorists gatecrash a party in his plush Beirut home. Ten years later, in 1982, he’s a washed-up alcoholic scratching a living mediating small-time labour disputes in America.
But when an ex-colleague is kidnapped by a PLO splinter group, the CIA bundles him into a plane and sends him back to the now war-torn Lebanese capital.
This is one of those films where everyone seems to have an ulterior motive and Hamm’s mission puts him in the crosshairs of terrorists, the Israeli secret service and his own government. At times you wish Bourne writer Tony Gilroy had tempered his dark script with a little humour but Hamm anchors the action with a performance full of heart and grit.
Whisper this quietly; could it be time for an American Bond?
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