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In Theaters: THE MEG (2018)

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THE MEG
(US/China - 2018)

Directed by Jon Turtletaub. Written by Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber. Cast: Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Cliff Curtis, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Robert Taylor, Page Kennedy, Jessica McNamee, Sophia Cai, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Masi Oka, Vathaya Pansringarm. (PG-13, 113 mins)

Based on Steve Alten's 1997 novel Meg and in development hell since about that time, THE MEG is enjoyably stupid summer junk food that may as well be titled DEEP BLUE SEA: JURASSIC SHARK. A $140 million US/China co-production, THE MEG offers a nice working vacation in New Zealand for its international cast, brought on board mainly to play paper-thin characters but really serving as chum for a giant CGI shark. The film opens with deep sea rescue hotshot Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) losing three members of his team in a split-second decision that meant losing three or losing everyone. He swears the vessel was attacked by a giant shark but no one sees it and he's written off as a coward who cracked under pressure. Cut to five years later, and the billion dollar underwater research facility Mana One, located 200 miles off the coast of China and run by Dr. Zhang (Winston Chao), has a small submersible disabled after breaking through the frozen thermocline and finding a second level of the ocean beyond the Mariana Trench, never before explored by man. Zhang and crew member Mac (Cliff Curtis) know there's only one man in the world capable of saving them: The Transporter. Er, I mean, Jonas, now a hopeless drunk idling his days away, living in a shithole apartment above a bar in Thailand, presumably next door to John Rambo.






Jonas agrees to help, especially since one of the stranded personnel is his ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee), and after a rescue that involves researcher Toshi (Masi Oka) sacrificing himself to save the others, they have visual proof of what Jonas saw five years earlier: the Megalodon, a giant, 70 ft. long shark thought to have gone extinct in prehistoric times. Trapped for centuries under the frozen thermocline breached by Zhang's research submersible, "The Meg" breaks free and begins attacking the research facility, also staffed by Zhang's daughter and colleague Suyin (Li Bingbing); her precocious, 8-year-old moppet daughter Meiying (Sophia Cai); engineer and computer hacker Jaxx (Ruby Rose as Pauley Perrette from NCIS); sneering Dr. Heller (Robert Taylor), with whom Jonas has some bad blood after Heller dismissed his claims about a giant shark years earlier; burly ox with a heart of gold "The Wall" (Olafur Darri Olafsson); comic relief black guy DJ (Page Kennedy), on hand to frequently yell "Aw, hell no!" and "This is not in my job description!"; and Morris (Rainn Wilson), the money behind Mana One, and an obnoxious billionaire man-child for whom the world is a playground.


Clearly, there are few surprises to be had in THE MEG, unless you consider the title creature's ability to somehow sneak up on people, lure them into traps, or the way people continue to venture out in vessels that can easily be devoured whole (also, the inevitable "It's right under us!" moment). It's nice to see the always-engaging Statham headlining his own action movie again after a series of middling underperformers threatened to relegate him to VOD until his addition to the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise gave his career a much-needed boost. He has a nice chemistry with both Li (though maybe not to the degree of John Barrowman and Jenny McShane in 2002's SHARK ATTACK 3: MEGALODON) and Cai and gets to work a good slow burn with his reactions to both Wilson's Morris and Taylor's Heller. As far as CGI sharks go, "The Meg" isn't bad until you start to see too much of it, though both Statham and director Jon Turtletaub (WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING, NATIONAL TREASURE) expressed dissatisfaction with the studio's decision to cut down the gore to secure a PG-13. While an unrated Blu-ray is inevitable, THE MEG as it stands is reasonably entertaining, never boring and often amusing brain-dead summer multiplex fare, and it even throws in a yapping dog named "Pippin" as a shout-out to the doomed black lab Pippet from the shark movie that will never be surpassed.


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