Saturday, November 03, 2012


Man Vs Shark

I was a little bit surprised when I saw the credits open with China's state censor board, thinking whether I had actually stumbled into the wrong cinema hall, until logos from both the Australian production companies involved, and Singapore's chief censor MDA came on, that I was assured this was indeed Bait, the film which had garnered some traction in the news once upon a time for its landmark deal inking and Singapore's involvement in a 3D movie. If I recall correctly some bits and pieces were screened during last year's inaugural ScreenSingapore, and it was only last 1-2 weeks that the film finally hit our shores in a theatrical release, in both 3D and 2D formats. But I suppose local distribution aren't too confident about its chances, and for the first time dangled equal ticket pricing for both the 3D and 2D versions.

Set in Australia's Gold Coast for the most parts other than a very brief, almost needless scene set in Beijing (it could have just been the second or third unit picking up some landscape shots), this could well be a print meant for Chinese cinemas, since locations got introduced using Chinese titles instead, and the Mandarin language here had gone undubbed, and weren't subtitled for the few lines spoken. And with MDA's involvement, we managed to have China born Mediacorp actor Qi Yuwu, who had a good run with roles in many Mediacorp Raintree regional / joint co-productions, and Adrian Pang's character Jessup, a supermarket manager whose character fits right at home with the kiasi/kiasu attitude.

The premise is almost ludicrous if you'd think about it, where a freak tsunami washes up on shore, and puts water everywhere around town. Our motley crew of protagonist caricatures in and around a supermarket, find themselves trapped with water, water everywhere, and two great white sharks, swimming around and waiting for anyone to drop in the water and become mid day snack. They try to escape, while the sharks lie in waiting, and that just about sums up the entire plot.

Directed by Australian Kimble Rendall, Bait seemed to be void of genuine ideas, instead relying very much on uninteresting twists and schemes that the motley crew of people, ranging from fathers to lifeguards, can come up with. This despite having no less than six writers being involved in the story, and they couldn't conjure something interesting nor original. After all, there are countless of shark attack related movies out there, and one is in need of something solid to take the story forward, with Rendall doing all he can to try and ramp up anticipation and excitement. Some ideas of escape and planning that the characters come up with, are plot loopholes themselves, and become laughable at each passing minute, except when one by one the relatively low body count begin to pile up.

The shark CG is obvious, and had relied on some gory moments to try and shock and awe any jaded audience used to seeing bodies being mangled on screen by animals. Attempts at providing some emotional depth especially between the estranged relationship of leading characters Josh (Xavier Samuel) and Tina (Shami Vinson) was weak, with other characters ranging from a bimbo, to a shoplifter, all turned out to be relatively lightweight. In a tale of survival, this one throws up a couple of disgusting characters whom you'll definitely cheer on the side of the great white when they meet their just desserts. And just so you know, the best death sequence here happens to be that involving Adrian Pang, the one that got featured in the trailer.

It sure would be interesting to know what MDA's criteria was when it decided to actively back this project, besides speculating it thought that 3D was the way to go, and thought this could have been something of a standard action blockbuster. It's firmly B-grade material, with the 3D being focused on many gimmicky designs of having fishes and body parts hurl toward the screen in crimson red colour. Suitable only if one has time to burn on lazy weekend afternoons just to see how nature gets rid of less savoury people. In some ways it's fun and forgettable, so don't expect anything more.

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