My default setting for nearly all movies is to go in with suspension of disbelief at the ready and benefit of the doubt loaded up, so I was hopeful such a nondescript title would be a mislead. Someone’s idea to lull the viewer into thinking Great White would be just another cheap shark flick with nothing new to offer before blowing those expectations out of the water.
Kaz (Katrina Bowden) and her boyfriend, Charlie (Aaron Jakubenko), run a small seaplane charter business in Australia. Their latest clients, Michelle (Kimie Tsukakoshi) and Joji (Tim Kano), need a lift to Hell’s Reef to conduct some personal business. The four of them, along with a cook named Benny (Te Kohe Tuhaka), find their picturesque journey turn into a fight for survival when a great white shark sets its sights on making this group into a meal.
Great White brings nothing fresh, interesting, or worthwhile to the table. It also doesn’t even manage to be entertaining, either in a lazy Saturday afternoon way or for DIY Rifftrax purposes (aside from the shark roars, anyway). The atmosphere never manages to rise above uneventful dullness and as for the script, well, I think “boilerplate” is a diplomatic way of describing the bare-minimum efforts put into crafting this tale.
The unimpressive cold open shark attack of a couple randos which kicks things off already gives the impression we’re just going through the motions and to set your bar low. Once main characters Kaz & Charlie show up things do not improve, either. The artlessly crafted exposition, ridiculously soft & pretty cinematography that make things come across like a perfume commercial, and pointless network TV-esque sex scene all hammer home quite early on there’s no meat on these bones.
The ho-hum nature of everything on display so far could have been mitigated by some effective shark attack scenes, at the very least, except those are nowhere to be found. The SFX are unconvincing without having the courtesy of being laughably bad and almost every telegraphed demise in Great White is somebody simply being yanked under the surface followed by red waters a moment later–oh, the *yawn* horrors.
When it comes to the performances, I think “shrug” sums it up. Katrina Bowden will always be Cerie from 30 Rock to me, so at least during the *long* stretches of boredom when characters are sitting around waiting until the next shark sighting my mind could wander to past amusements (like when she sent a lifesize cutout of herself to a party instead of bothering to attend). Actually, much of Great White ends up feeling kind of like that–if it’s at a distance and you aren’t paying attention it could be mistaken for a killer shark movie, but then you get close up and notice it’s only a 2D cutout with nothing behind the facade.
I don’t like giving away specifics or how things end, generally speaking, but I’ll be deviating from that mindset in this last section so either stop now or SPOILER ALERT…
Would you be shocked to learn the pregnant main character and the woman on a mission to honorably spread the ashes of her war hero relative pull through while the men perish? And of course the guys’ deaths are all a result of machismo, cowardice, or sacrificial bravery. I know horror movies are still quite partial to the “Final Girl” concept, but c’mon already–it’s been over 40 years of this mindset, time to mix it up!
My issue, by the way, isn’t that I’ve desperately always wanted to see a pregnant woman eaten by a shark. It’s the tension deflating predictability of being told, right at the start, who’s going to die (and in what order). When Kaz revealed the pregnancy to her boyfriend I literally wrote “She’s 100% safe but her boyfriend’s doomed to die via some pointless act of heroism, right?” and that’s exactly what happens. Another one of the guys is both rich & jealous, so he’s dead meat for sure, and the last guy–fifth wheel Benny–is clearly canon fodder as he’s a cook who’s not part of either couple.
Spice things up next time, filmmakers. Let the cook guy live!
3 out of 10 Shark Roars
GREAT WHITE is available In Theaters, On Demand and Digital July 16, 2021
Adem lives with his husband, dog(s), & cat(s) in an Arizonian city where any time not spent with/on the previously mentioned creatures is filled with writing, rowing, baking, and whatever else the day brings.