How the James Bond Theme Was Born

With so much James Bond stuff coining out on line right now it may be impossible to keep up with it all. When I find something to add to the celebration of 50 Years and the Release of Skyfall, I’m going to add it to the Bond Festival here on the Kirkham A Movie A Day site.

I don’t know that everything being said here is right, there have been a number of stories over the years but it sound pretty accurate, even if it is being delivered in a somewhat pompus way by one reporter and frivolously by the other.

Lawless

A couple of my students had recommended this movie to me in the last few weeks. I’d seen the trailer and it did seem like it would be something that I would be interested in. For some reason it slipped by and I had almost forgotten about it. This morning we actually headed to the theater in the hopes of catching up on a horror film that had been out even longer than “Lawless” had bee. The listed screening tome turned out to be 9:30 pm instead of am, and so Amanda and I were faced with a choice of what to do. We considered a couple of other films but this was starting the soonest so in we went. It’s probably not the best way to make a decision about what to see but it happens occasionally.

This is a southern fried gangster movie about moonshiners and the corrupt state police that want to take their bite in the bad old days of Prohibition. Once in a while the city gangsters show up as well so there is plenty of rivalry and tension in the story. The art direction, cinematography, and costuming all sell the time period very effectively. As you look at the streets of the small towns, you see the different signs for products of the times, the cars look like they belong to the period and the way the actors are dressed, suggests every photograph I’ve seen of my grandparents back in the 1920s and 30s. The moon-shining business in the film is supposed to be set in Virgina, but all the big city folks are gangsters and lawmen out of Chicago so it did not always make geographic sense. The film is based on a book that is written by the one of the descendants of the three brothers featured in the story, so I suppose there is some truth in it, although the usual dose of Hollywood hyperbole is detectable in the marketing phrase “Based on a True Story”.

The oldest brother in the family of moon-shining bootleggers is played by Tom Hardy. He is is on the brink of being one of the biggest stars in the world. Earlier this year he was the villain “Bane” in “The Dark Knight Rises”, but even better he appeared as the damaged marine in last years fantastic “Warrior”. His acting talent is not utilized in big strokes in this movie. Half of his performance depends on a gravely voiced southern accent which is used to utter half words such as might actually be said by someone of his status in life. He nails the dead eyed look and mumble pretty well. The other half of his performance however seems to come from the cardigan sweater he wears in the whole movie. He looks like a bulky grumpy grandad rather than a bad ass. At least up to the moment when the brass knuckles he has hidden in his pocket end up in the mouth of someone who crosses him. There are only a couple of scenes where his explosive persona comes out and gives the viewer the emotional outcome we are looking for. The climax of the picture renders him less imposing than other characters that the story is really more focused on.

If you read movie blogs of any type, you will almost certainly have encountered the hate that Shia LeBeouf has generated over the last few years. Despite being featured in the three “Transformers” movies, which have made a ton of money as well as appearing in a number of other successful film, he appears to be an irritant to a number of film goers. It may have started with the less than successful story in the last “Indiana Jones” film. There was a lot to criticize there and he was responsible in at least the on screen segments of the story that most fans find cringe worthy. In my view he has simply been a young actor who is trying to grow in his craft, sometimes failing because of weak material of poor casting. He has however been good in several movies and I would count this one among those. As the youngest brother of the hill country clan of distillers, he is a mix of eager puppy and screw up. The character is written for someone just like LeBeouf, wanting to be more than he is, preening when he makes his mark and believable when he makes a mistake. The match between actor and role is a good fit and the film succeeds in large part because of his presence.

There are some very good performances from other actors in the movie as well but none of them draws attention to the acting with one exception which I will discuss in a moment. Jessica Chastain, who was in two wildly different movies last year, one I loved and the other I loathed, is stuck in a thankless role as the eye candy that generates some emotion from the older brother but her character is just underdone. She has the part of the sexy temptress but I thought she was out-shined by the demur and luminous Mia Wasikowska. Her part is even less well developed but she has just the right look and smile to sell the character of a slightly rebellious Mennonite preacher’s daughter. The performance that draws the most attention to itself is Guy Pearce as the corrupt D.A. enforcer Charlie Rakes. He chews a little scenery, but the biggest part of his performance is a legacy again of the costume and make up departments. Like Hardy’s sweater, Pearce’s hair cut and lack of eyebrows do most of the heavy lifting for the role. He is creepy without having to know much about him.

Gary Oldman is in the movie but other than two scenes, one of them a memorable costarring performance with a machine gun, you would not recall he is part of the story. The machine gun does remind me that this is a very violent film. None of it is the cartoon violence of “Dredd”. This movie violence feels threatening and like it is a daily part of the lives of all the characters. Some of it is shown but thankfully the most brutal parts are mostly hinted at. I was glad not to see the castration and rape scenes that tell you just how depraved some of the characters are. You know that the danger was real and that’s about as far as we need to go with it.

The music was authentic sounding with some tunes featuring Emmy Lou Harris and the final song performed by Willie Nelson. Much of the music reminded me of the southern inflected gospel music of “Oh Brother Where Art Thou”. The story arc is pretty straight forward and the main point of the movie is the maturation of the central character of the Shia LeBeouf. That might keep away the haters but if you like a hard boiled gangster picture with some good performances and solid action, I think “Lawless” is worth the effort.

Dredd

If this is what you are looking for than this is what you are looking for. It meets all your expectations and satisfies the violence quotient you are jonesing for. There is a definite edge to the film that was lacking in the first big screen version of the story. Not being a fan of the comic that it is based on, I can’t say how faithful they were to the story but it sure feels like the tone of the movie is in line with the no nonsense visualization that comes up here. The plot is straightforward, there are only a couple of twists and they occur within the confines of the story and don’t scream “Hey we need to punch this up a bit”.

Karl Urban plays the title character and it is a interesting performance because he never takes his helmet off. The Judges in  Mega city are all uniformed with armor and a head piece that hides the top half of their faces. It is never clear to me what the advantage of this is, but it was clear that Judge Dredd takes all of this very seriously. Since Urban has to perform with half a face, he needs to got the tone of the Judge right and make it work through action scenes and dialog. I thought he nailed it. There are not one liners or quips that make this character interesting, but his reaction and vocal tone speak volumes. He never plays a line for laughs, but there is sometimes a slight smirk and a odd pause that tells you the Judge just make a funny. Most of the time his world weary sigh is enough to tell you that the business end of his gun is about to do the rest of his speaking.

The only element of the movie that seemed like it might be a movie made plot point involves the rookie Judge that Dredd is evaluating. In the toxic irradiated world in which the story takes place, it appears that there are mutations. Most of these are not seen and when they are referred to, it is with a disparaging description of their lack of arms or legs. Judge Anderson however appears to have psychic abilities that raise her value despite a low set of  test scores. The psychic element also gives the female co-star the opportunity to skip wearing her helmet since it could interfere with her talent. In truth, this simply gives the actress, Olivia Thirby, the ability to play her part with a complete face. It’s one thing to have a bunch of faceless hoods being dispatched in overwhelming numbers, but the audience needs some emotional connection to the main characters and if both of them remain anonymous that would be tough. The psychic ability plot line proves useful and it was not overly used but there were a couple of places where the rules regarding how it works were a bit inconsistent.

I have not been able to catch up with a movie out earlier this year, “Raid Redemption”. I have heard that it has a very similar plot to this film and that there is also a lot of imaginative violence that drives it as an entertainment. I expect it will be right up my alley because the current film clearly was. Hundreds of gang members in a massive building are trying to wipe out the two judges. There is some technical mumbo jumbo used to make the battle remain between the gang and the judges without any outside assistance for the most part. This was another plot loophole toward the end of the film, and one of the twists that comes up, while not exactly a cheat, feels a little too pat. Still, this two against hundreds saga is filled with small scenarios that hold our attention. There is a nice use of the psychic skills to escape one situation, a technical trick to fix another, and finally there is the willingness of the minions to act recklessly, which allows our judges to be so efficient in dispensing justice.  In one extremely long outburst of violence, hundreds of bystanders are slaughtered in a pretty mechanical way. I appreciated that the glorification of violence was usually reserved for the wicked as they got their comeuppance.  If you are clearly as bad a person as I am, and take joy in the violent retribution that the criminal behavior brings, then you will want to see this in 3D. The viscera comes flying off the screen and splatters (metaphorically)  on the audience in abundance. It is shameful and base to take such delight in violent images such as these. So of course I loved the movie. Let’s face it, this is an entertainment that derives its purpose from exploiting the violence.

There have been other violent soaked orgies of cinema excess that I have not enjoyed despite their bloody visage. “Sin City” comes to mind. I am also unwilling to endure what some have called “torture porn”. Movies in which the innocent are mutilated as often as the guilty, are harder for me to justify to my own sensibility. I need to care about someone in the movie for there to be a value to the vengeance. I cared about the two judges. The rookie represents an innocent who is looking for a life purpose in a world that otherwise has no use for her, and the veteran Dredd, is the silent figure of justice that is as close to an ideal as one can come to in the world created by the film. He goes by the rules and follows the code. Those that cross the line do so at their peril. It’s nice to think that someone so single minded and violent is on the side of justice rather than a criminal. In many ways he is “Robocop” without the cyborg trappings, and “Robocop” is one of my favorite cinematic heroes. All you need to know going into this is whether the premise appeals to you. If it does, if violent action in pursuit of “justice” is your kind of movie, than get to a theater because this is your kind of movie. 

James Bond Countdown to Skyfall Part 1

I’ve been reading a blog site lately that I enjoy immensely. You can find Fog’s Movie Reviews on the links to the right of these posts. Dan appears to be as big a Bond fan as I am although I have the years on him to make a case for my preeminence. Over the last year he has had a series of posts on the 007 films, ranking them as CLASSIC, CHEESE, or CRAP. We’ve disagreed on a few of them but more often than not he sees things the way I do. I thought that in celebration of the upcoming release of Skyfall, the next James Bond adventure in a fifty year screen career, I’d do some Bond posts as well.

The original Movie A Day project featured three posts on Bond films from the seventies. I also did a Robert Shaw film festival and posted on From Russia with Love. Finally, another blogger that I follow closely, has been posting his reviews of the movies in his collection alphabetically (My Movies My Words, also on the right hand set of links) and when he wrote about Goldfinger, well I had to get in on the action. One of the great things about the internet is that I have been able to find others who share my passion for films, especially the films featuring the greatest gentleman spy in all literature.

In an attempt to do something a bit different, I decided I would do a ranking of the James Bond films myself, but with a slight twist. I’m going to rank the films of each actor who has portrayed Bond separately from the other actor’s films. Then at the end of the process, I may attempt some other ranking games and offer anyone interested an opportunity to participate in some on-line polling of films, actors, villains, gadgets, theme songs and Bond Girls. This seems pretty ambitious to me, but I hope to keep myself occupied and engaged while waiting for November 9th.  Anyone who knows a Bond fan should send them to these posts so that they can play along.

We’ll begin with the actor’s who have portrayed Bond the least and move to those who had the good fortune to be 007 for seven films each

George Lazenby

This is easy because Lazenby only played 007 in one film, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, so his best effort and his worst are represented in one movie.

Lazenby gets a bad rap from most Bond fans, because he was an amateurish actor in his first role, but even more importantly, it appears to most fans that he was indifferent to being  007. He made it easy for the producers to find reasons to dump him and he acted as if he was happy to walk away from the role. The truth in my opinion is that he was a moderately successful replacement for Connery, and had he had a chance to grow in the part he might have been a big star and made some great Bond films.

The role of James Bond in OHMSS is maybe the most complex personal story of any Bond plot. Frustrated at his lack of support in his search for Blofeld and the remains of SPECTRE, he actually tries to resign and it only the intervention of Moneypenny that keeps him on the job. He has made contact with a woman that fits his personal profile for attractiveness. Bond has always been a sucker for a wounded bird that he can protect and nurture. Tracy presents him with a personal challenge rather than a professional one, and that is one of the changes in the tone of the film that I think most Bond fans dislike. Ultimately the two paths do cross and Tracy is embroiled in the spy game mostly by accident.

When I first saw OHMSS as a kid, I noticed how the fight sequences seemed to have been sped up ever so slightly. I’m sure the purpose was to make the fights seem more energetic, but I thought it was one of the weaknesses of the film. It takes you out of the reality of the situation and reminds you of the film making. Lazenby gets some great opportunities to flirt with a dozen women at Blofeld’s mountain top fortress, but he can’t pull of the sly innuendo and Double entendré the way Connery could. Just about everyone else in the film is a better actor than the lead and that makes his flaws more noticable, but not necessarily fatal.

There are some strengths in this film that should be listed. To begin, Diana Rigg was a better actress than any of the previous Bond girls and she had a better part to perform in. The primary setting in the Alps, is a spectacular change from the other exotic locales that had been used before. Skiing becomes a skill that Bond uses many times after this in his film adventures, but this movie set the standard for good chase sequences in the snow. I liked the tension in the scene where Bond breaks into a solicitors office in Switzerland, has a photocopier delivered to him and escapes with a centerfold just before the lawyer returns. The safecracking equipment and photocopier that were needed in this film are the basis of the problem Bond was faced with. The equipment was large, it had to be smuggled in and it had to be sophisticated. In later films Bond would have a wristwatch or cell phone with the same capabilities. Those tools are cool but then you don’t get the realistic suspense that we had in this scene.

The other weaknesses in the film include a lack of a great title song. The Louis Armstrong song in the film is nice. It uses a line that I choke up on because it was something I used in the memorial service for my best friend, “We have all the time in the world”. Of course we never do and at the end of the movie the tone of the song is much more somber. The end of OHMSS is also a downer, another thing that people object to.  I do love the opening music but there isn’t a song to go with it so it is not as memorable as it could be.

It does include on of the best one liners in the series, it takes you out of the movie for a second but it is worth it.http://youtu.be/biSKZZXZbYE?t=32s  

House at the End of the Street

This was the lowest rated film opening this week on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m not sure why it is getting such low scores. It may be that the other movies opening this week at driving down the opinions on this film, or it may be that the haters think that since it is a PG 13 horror film, it has to suck. It was not at the top of my list to see either, but in the long run it would be unwise to think of this too much as a horror film. It has some horror elements and those were played up in the advertising, but for the most part it is a suspense thriller with another variation on on old theme.

Jennifer Lawrence is hot right now (OK she’s just hot). After starring in an Academy Award nominated performance and having the lead in the newest breakout film series on the planet, she will be in demand and can have her pick of films for the next few years. I suspect she took this job before the potential fame banner was wrapped around her. It is a simple film that focuses primarily on characters and story. If you have a good enough story, the actors that have been cast will bring it home for you and Lawrence and her co-stars do bring it home. So if the movie is less than satisfying, people must have a problem with the screenplay. I’ll get to that in a minute.

The two leads are young and appealing. Their romance is believable and it is not a problem that the star is attracted to the odd loner. Max Thierot looks familiar to me but I have not checked to see what else I might have seen him in. He has a hangdog expression and a winning manner. It comes over very reasonably that the sensitive new girl in town would be attracted to him. She sings a sweet song and he drops the information that he heard her singing it in a casual way. He seems so milquetoast at first that you might wonder if he really is the second lead. Lawrence plays a smart girl, and the part does not have some of the flaws of other movies of this ilk. She picks up on signals, and notices things that any of us would see in daily life. She is not a passive victim, but a clever and resourceful protagonist. No one is going to be screaming at her to not go in the house based on what her character has seen.

The other actors I thought carried off the script as well as they could. Elizabeth Shue, as the less than perfect but still very protective mother was well cast and hit the right notes. Once upon a time she would have been playing Lawrence’s part so it was not difficult to see them as a parent and child at odds over their awkward relationship. Gil Bellows is an actor I remember from TV and he plays the slightly too low key police officer who comes into the lives of these three people. At times you suspect he may have something to do with the goings on, but his likability factor is high most of the time. As the voice of reason, he ends up being memorable in a fairly slight part.

OK, the story is next. We have seen endless variations of slasher movies and creepy house films, so the fact there there is not as much suspense as there should be is less the fault of the movie than of the audience. We are in on it from the beginning. If you saw a trailer for the film, you know a couple of the plot twists that might have been more fun if we did not see them coming a mile away. The story takes it’s time coming to the suspense elements, and I was almost hooked on the sympathetic Norman Bates vibe. The problem is that there are double twists and they confuse some revelations and they are not as well developed as they should be. I did think there was an effective use of flashbacks, but there are still unanswered elements of the plot that bug me a little at the end. The big climax in the house fulfills it’s connect the dots vision, but makes the story less believable because of how a couple of things play out (Mom takes a knife and this is what happens?) The movie was competent, and the story for the most part is a nice turn on an old stool, but in the long run, the movie fails because it is not what you think it is going in. It is a well made, moderately budgeted suspense film with no real blood or on screen gore. The film makers tell a story, it’s just a bit too familiar and the unique elements are not enough to lift it past adequacy.

White Line Fever

This is one of those movies that should have been on the original Movie A Day Project. I had more than a hundred films listed and I simply started with the ones that were on my shelf at the time. As the summer went along that year and the project progressed, I started looking for copies of the movies on my list and ordered them or found them in local retail outlets. There were several movies that were not available anywhere that I looked and so they got bumped from the project. A couple of things could be rented on i-tunes and a couple had been uploaded to YouTube, but White Line Fever was one that escaped me. About a year back I saw that it was available as a disc on demand on the Warner Brothers site. These discs are bare bone films in the best available format the studio has. Sometimes the prints have flaws or the sound and color are not as sharp as they might be, but the movies don’t have enough cache to demand re-mastering and a major release. With internet streaming they may end up being made available without any packaging or modification at all. I still like physical media, and collecting a library that someone can see when they come to the house is fun. I finally sprang for the DVD on demand and it came yesterday so I could not wait.

 The 1970’s were an interesting time to live through. International conflicts, political upheaval, changing social mores, they had them all. Fads have come and gone for centuries and I can’t say that the 70s invented them, but when it came to social trends and movies, the 1970s may have had the greatest number of inexplicable cultural fads of any decade. Buried in the middle of the decade was an obsession with the “Trucking” lifestyle. The CB radio became ubiquitous, and there were TV shows, movies and hit songs that all featured truckers. “White Line Fever” is a relic of that time period, Truckers were the modern day cowboy, riding the ranges in their eighteen wheelers and living the truly free lifestyle that so many of us envied. With the oil shortages and government regulations at the time, there were regular protests by truckers of injustices that they saw. “White Line Fever” played out many of the themes of those times, abuse by public officials, manipulation by power crazed distributors and financial hardships created by the cost of buying gas. For the most part, it is a very traditional story of one man fighting against the system. It’s not quite “On the Waterfront” but the general objective is the same, the difference is the means by which it is achieved.

This is the old Alhambra Theater. I saw many of the seventies based movies I write about at this theater. The Facade in the picture shows it as the Twin Theaters but in the decade before, it was divided as the Alhambra and the Gold theaters. The main house had a huge auditorium that could accommodate maybe 800 audience members. This is where I first saw the film with my friend Mark Witt. It may have been one of the last movies we went to together because soon after graduation, he and his family moved to a farm community in Central California. Mark and his brother Dick, were in my Scout troop and they were farm boys trapped in suburbia. The trucker aspect of the movie would have appealed to Mark, because if he wasn’t going to be a farmer, he’d have been a trucker. I know I saw this movie several times and at least one of those times was in the smaller Gold Theater at this complex, if had seats for maybe 200. The ceiling in that theater was very low and the feeling was cramped compared to the spacious cavern of the main house. I had two or three circles of friends, and it is interesting to me that although my best friend Art, worked at the Alhambra Theater, he and Mark never socialized with me at the same time.

The movie stars Jan Michael Vincent, who spent most of the 1970s on the cusp of big stardom but for some reason never seemed to make it to the next level. His later life was a mixture of personal problems and professional dead ends. In this movie he plays a headstrong, independent young man who wants to make his way in life as a long haul trucker. He is supported by his hard working wife but she worries that the job will keep them apart. For much of the film, that is not an issue because he can’t get a job hauling anything. He once worked for his father in the trucking business and they shared some basic values, including knowing what is legal and right. His unwillingness to move contraband along with the legitimate products is the reason he is blackballed by the local trucking collective. It is hard to imagine that a guy could get away at one point with hijacking a job at gunpoint, but that is a plot point in this film and it kind of makes sense. There are several other actors of note in the film. Kay Lenz plays his wife and she was on TV and small movies all the time in the 1970s and 80s. Her biggest role was in the mini series Rich Man, Poor Man and she also appeared in another of the Movie A Day Projects “The Great Scout and Cathouse Thursday”. She is still working and appears in television programs on a regular basis. Her character here is nearly as head strong as Vincent’s is. They made a very believable on screen couple. The great Slim Pickins is in this movie, but it is one of the few performances I’ve seen him in where he does not seem to be putting much energy into it. He will be better remembered for his work in 1975 in Blazing Saddles than this. He does however get a pretty effective death scene and it was disturbing enough to me to be able to recall it vividly before I watched this again for the first time in thirty plus years. L.Q. Jones is in the movie as well. L.Q. was a buddy of Strother Martin, the actor who was my Mother’s cousin. I always keep an eye out for him in movies because he is a connection to those days. I was told recently that he had died but that turned out to be premature and the woman I know who is writing about Strother, has had some contact with him. He is especially slimey in this film, they gave him a pair of black leather pants to wear and he looks like some nasty peckerwood who is trying to be something bigger than he really is.

An exploitation film like this really thrives on a couple of things, either gratuitous nudity (none here) or spurts of violence (several set pieces here). There is an nice action scene where our hero climbs on top of his big rig and has a shotgun shootout with the bad guys. Most of the violence was basic fisticuffs rather than gunplay or martial arts. The fights are well staged but often feel like there is not much resolution because the antagonists will be dukking it out again in a later scene. The climax of the picture is a well lit night time truck stunt that looks pretty spectacular but it is not clear in the story how it would resolve anything. The idea that the truckers can come together to fight against the corruption they are faced with is a solid one, but the cartel that controls their business seems to be more cartoon like than is needed. In the long run, the story is only moderately satisfying, but the theme and road images made the picture memorable. There is some casual use of racial epithets, and I know I heard people speak that way and not think twice about it in those days. Today such language would be an anathema for most of us. I’m glad to check this one off of the list and it was great to revisit it, even if it was not a great film.

Bait 3D

Sometimes I have to question my sanity, or at least my common sense. This movie is out on DVD/Blu Ray on Tuesday, and it is playing in very limited release this week only. So why can’t I wait a couple of days and just buy it and watch it as often as I want? The answer is simple, as much as I love the whole concept of watching movies at home, there is no substitute for seeing a film in a theater, on a big screen, with an audience. Unfortunately for the producers of this film, my audience consisted of only five people. I know that the screenings are not really designed to bring in the cash, because they are basically just advertising for the Video, but this would be a lot more fun with a crowd of screaming teen girls, their hipper than thou dates, and a bunch of other thrill seekers looking for an opportunity to jump up and yell, “Hell Yeah”. My daughter and I love the cheesy horror elements and a shark in the water will bring her to the most awful movie because Jaws is her favorite film. So, on a Sunday morning, we drove almost fifty miles across the county, to the harbor area in L.A., and took in a screening of “Bait” in 3D.

I’d seen this promoted on a Facebook page and I liked it months ago. The site directs you to another site Called Tugg, where apparently, if you get enough requests in an area, the company arranges a screening.  I’m not sure if this was a Tugg event, after all, the film is playing all week and not just for one night. It is an interesting concept, and I saw that another blogger I follow, attended a Tugg event for “The Princess Bride”.  I’ll have to keep my eyes open on this because I am really interested in seeing older films that I have missed, or genre crap that will not get a general release, up on the big screen. So, enough background, the real question is, “How was the movie?”

The concept is an interesting mash up of a disaster picture, with a shark thriller/horror film layered on top.  A group of people with mixed motives and relationships, gets stranded after a natural disaster in a grocery store/parking garage, and they are being stalked by great white sharks. It sound pretty silly, and it is, but when you see how it all set up it makes more sense. Sometimes people are separated and they have to get from one spot to another before the sharks can get to them, other times there is a deliberate attempt to move from one spot to another to achieve a short term goal. Let’s face it, watching eight or nine people sit on a shelf for two hours is not going to make a very good movie. The sharks have reason to be antsy and the people are given reasons to test their ability to outwit and out swim the sharks.

There are plenty of odd inconsistencies in the storytelling. At one point the survivors are struggling to come up with a rag or towel to create a bandage or tourniquet. Five minutes later, they have assembled a portable shark cage, complete with underwater breathing tools. Of course it doesn’t make any sense but it does give them something to do and the audience some reason to hope for both success and failure. A movie like this, requires that there be some failures so we can get the gruesome, violent payoff we have been promised by the scenario. From the beginning of the movie, the audience knows that blood is going to be spilled, the only question is whether it will be in a style that is visually arresting, shocking, and emotionally or morally satisfying. For the most part the film lives up to it’s promises. While it is nearly an exploitation picture, it turns out that it has dramatic pretensions as well. Unlike the two “Piranha” films in the last couple of years, there is no gratuitous nudity. Unlike “Shark Night” of last year, there is no stupid horror film style subplot. What we got was a pretty standard disaster drama, with some bloody special effects scenes built in.

The actors here are all competent and deliver their lines with some sense of reality. I did not recognize most of them, but Amanda said that one of the girls is in “Vampire Diaries”, so they are not an inexperienced cast. The one guy I did recognize is Julian McMahon. He was Dr. Doom in the “Fantastic Four” films, and he played the psychotic candidate in the movie “Red” last year. He has an interesting face and demeanor, and was cast as a conflicted heavy in this film. The two young sets of actors, playing the star crossed lovers and bickering romantic partners all seemed to be the right age and were as convincing as the set up would allow anyone to be. There is no surprise in who ultimately gets killed and who makes it out into the light of day. The only elements of surprise  concerned how the shark deaths would look on film. There are two really effective and grisly deaths, two other deaths that have a little bit of payback satisfaction, and hundreds of deaths that occur within a short sequence.

I did feel a bit of moral guilt watching a group of survivors, and rooting for some and not others, shortly after thousands of mostly faceless others were killed. It is the nature of a disaster picture however to present us with that type of scenario.  Most of the deaths occur in a quick and non-exploitative manner. There were however a couple that seemed to feed the feel of the picture as a cheap action picture. If the movie had been more outright nuts, then maybe those sequences could be laughed off, I just thought they were a little too “cinematic” for a film that is trying to be a real drama. That said, the guy dangling from a rope who gets bitten in half by a leaping shark was pretty gruesome cool. The movie is not over the top crap like Piranha 3DD, but it did have a feel for exploitative action entertainment. It was a satisfying morning, and if you are looking for a low budget drama with some horrifying action, this is your ticket. If you want cheap ass thrills, wait for all the crappy horror films that are about to hit, or best of all, dip into the “Piranha” films. Bait has it’s moments, but it is actually too solid a movie for it’s own good.