There’s no hiding from the fact that once you try to make a film about a killer shark the Jaws comparisons will quickly emerge. The only thing a director can do is embrace it and hope the film isn’t harpooned out of cinemas before being given a chance.
Director Jon Turteltaub has gone super-sized in his attempt at making what he calls “the second best shark movie of all time.” Anyone who caught the trailer for The Meg might’ve found it hard to stop giggling at a set-up that threatened to add a Hollywood sized budget to a Sharknado-style concept. Except no-one’s laughing and this one is being played straighter than Jason Statham’s stubble line.
This time The Stath faces off against his biggest foe yet. He’s Jonas Taylor, a deep-sea rescue expert living in Thailand drowning his sorrows after a horrific incident forced him to abandon his career underwater. He’s already told the world the Meg is real (short for Megalodon, an extinct giant prehistoric shark) but everyone thinks he’s crazy – and you can guess who has the last laugh about that.
He’s given a shot at redemption when an old colleague called Mac (Cliff Curtis) and respected scientist Zhang plead with him to help rescue a research team that includes Jonas’ ex-wife (Jessica McNamee) who are trapped in the far depths of the ocean. They’ve been working from a hi-tech research station in the Chinese ocean funded by multi-billionaire Morris (Rainn Wilson). But this isn’t a simple case of deep diving and resurfacing a hero as there is something large and scaly stalking the ocean floor.
While The Meg is not as over-the-top as it could be and perhaps should be, it makes the most of its prized asset by terrorising the living daylights out of the crew on board the research ship. This isn’t a film concerned with logic or pondering real-world scenarios. Its Statham mano a mano against a giant fish armed with only his brawn and a slew of droll one-liners.
Statham has developed a loyal following thanks to a no-frills approach to his performances. He is the same character in every role but he’s a throwback to the classic action heroes of the 80s, beating up the bad guys, pausing to shoot from the hip and always maintaining his cool, mysterious and muscular composure.
The Meg is a co-Chinese production hence the location and cast which also includes noted Asian actors Li Bingbing and Winston Chao. Turteltaub keeps things moving along at the right pace without leaving the action off-screen for too long, throwing in plenty of jump scares and pleasurable kills along the way.
It will be a struggle to find any film dumber than The Meg this year and what audiences will get out of it will depend on their willingness to surrender to its silliness. As inane popcorn films go this is up there with the best of them, delivering lots of thrills and more than enough Statham screen time to satisfy our famous British irony.
The Meg swims into UK cinemas on Friday 10th August