In the fine tradition of “Shark Night 3D,” “Piranha 3DD” and the direct-to-DVD “Deep Blue Sea 4” that surely exists in another dimension, comes “Bait 3D,” an Australian-Singapore co-production once again warning us to stay out of the deep end. In an inventive twist, this time, the deep end has come to us: “Bait 3D” has a high concept premise that’s essentially Sharks In A Supermarket. As the tagline deftly teases, “Cleanup On Aisle 7.” The parenthetical assumption is that this shark isn’t actually shopping, see.
The hunky Xavier Samuel plays the sketch of a lead character, who is recovering from a very bad prologue accident that resulted in a shark dining on some fellow beachgoers. The stress was enough to lead to a break-up between him his lady, who is played by Sharni Vinson, who sadly does not use any of her “Step Up 3D” dance moves to defeat any sharks even though this is the second film in the 3D genre for her.
Long after the accident, she’s now a shopper, and he’s an employee of a local mega-mart, both of them exchanging what-could-have-been glances, even though she’s clearly with a new man, and he’s with an employee vest. “Bait 3D” then rushes to introduce a number of forgettable character types, given that it’s a 93 minute shark attack movie with little time for nuance. In the garage, there’s a prissy dog-toting Miss Thang and her meat headed boyfriend. There’s a put-upon employee with a shoplifting teenage girlfriend. She’s got an annoyed single father policeman father, who is also trailing a suspicious man pointing a gun at the head of the harried manager. This circle of Australian Central Casting Types are suddenly ambushed, the only survivors of a ruthless tsunami that destroys the store, leaving them stuck inside with each other and a sea of bloated, drowned corpses.
Presumably, the shark also took advantage of the gnarly wave to get inside the store and feast, because sharks in movies are notorious jerks. There are two Great Whites — one that stalks the garage, where young Stock Boy tries to stay afloat as Miss Thang and her boyfriend squabble, and another in the store, keeping our central cast afloat on top of the submerged aisles, watching the occasional fin break the water. Meanwhile, everyone makes eyes at the shifty guy who attempted to rob the store, but has now banded together with everyone to survive the day. He’s played by Julian McMahon, easily the most recognizable face in the cast, and for awhile you think he’ll be Samuel L. Jackson and this will be his “Deep Blue Sea.” Guess Surviving The Whole Way is the new Gruesome Surprise Mid-Movie Death. Also, perhaps we’re overrating McMahon’s star level.
“Bait 3D” is directed by Kimball Rendall, and while it’s not very good, it’s probably a lot better than it could be. The premise sounds great on paper until you’re surrounded by a C-List cast who spend a good forty minutes of screen time standing in the same aisles. Somehow, this setup does not feel claustrophobic and it only rarely gets boring, despite actors trapped in the same place. Also, the strongest actor is the guy who played Dr. Doom. As little sense as it makes for this guy to walk into the store and rob it, then hours later develop a romance in a life-threatening situation, Rendall tries his best to make it work. Maybe the other guy from “Nip/Tuck” would have brought the situation a bit more gravity.
Rendall is saddled with a turgid script written by genre legend Russell Mulcahy, who has long stopped caring. But to his credit, Rendall never plays the material for camp, even if some performances tend to lean in that direction. On one level, you could say he lacks the ingenuity to make his limited resources work. On another, you could say he’s directing a low budget shark film where most of the shark material is stock footage, and the rest is relying on a probably underpaid, under experienced and overtaxed special effects department trying to animate a Great White erratically behaving like a stone cold killer. Lest we forget, James Cameron started with “Piranha 2,” receiving guidance from Roger Corman and “Piranha” director Joe Dante. Rendall’s elder in this situation is the director of “Highlander 2: The Quickening.” [D+]
“Bait 3D” hits DVD and Blu-Ray on Tuesday, September 18th.