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Shark weak – ‘47 Meters Down’

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Bland, boring thriller is dud in the water.

Ever since “Jaws,” sharks have proven a regular provider of cinematic scares.

Granted, many of those efforts are either deeply misguided (I’m looking at you, “Deep Blue Sea”) or utterly ludicrous (see: the somehow-still-a-thing “Sharknado” franchise), but every once in a while, you get a good one. For instance, last summer’s “The Shallows” was a surprisingly engaging film, one that leaned into its B-movie sensibility and somehow made Blake Lively watchable in the process.

So I was cautiously hopeful about the prospects of “47 Meters Down,” the latest entry into the shark attack cinematic oeuvre. Unfortunately, those hopes were quickly and thoroughly drowned, turned into a bland, boring narrative chum that would fail to draw even the hungriest, most non-discerning shark.

Lisa (Mandy Moore, TV’s “This is Us”) is on a vacation in Mexico with her sister Kate (Claire Holt, TV’s “The Originals”). She’s trying to move on from a recent breakup; her boyfriend left her because she wasn’t spontaneous enough. Or something – in truth, it becomes pretty tough to care about any of these people fairly early on.

Anyway, the two wind up meeting a couple of local guys – Javier (Chris Johnson, “Game Day”) and Louis (Yani Gellman, “The Saint”) – who convince them that the most fun thing that they could do on this vacation is to get up close and personal with some sharks. And wouldn’t you know it, they just happen to know a guy who will take them, no questions asked.

So the four of them wind up on a boat out in the middle of the ocean, checking out a shark cage operation run by the slightly-seedy Captain Taylor (Matthew Modine, TV’s “Stranger Things”). Despite some misgivings, Lisa allows Kate to convince her to go into the cage; they’re lowered five meters down and see the sights – including sharks, of course.

Since you already know the title of the movie, you can probably guess that they aren’t staying five meters deep.

The questionable equipment malfunctions, dropping the cage all the way to the ocean floor which is – you guessed it – 47 meters down. They’ve got a limited air supply and only Kate has any actual diving experience; add to that a horde of chummed-up sharks and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a trap. Unable to make contact with the surface, they’re left to try and find a way to save themselves from the menace that swims all around them.

I’m not sure what I expected going into “47 Meters Down,” but I certainly didn’t think that I was going to be rooting for the sharks. But after spending just a few minutes with the dull-yet-irritating Lisa and Kate, I was ready for them to go. Seriously – I was rooting for the sharks before we even saw any sharks. I was rooting for them before anyone even made it to the ocean.

Look, I understand that for a film like this, the narrative exists largely to get us into the shark-surrounded cage. I get it. But when there’s little to no connection with the people stuck in that cage, it’s difficult to care. And when you don’t care, there’s nothing really at stake.

There are a few feints at building tension, but they almost all get undermined by weird plot choices or lagging action or unintentional humor. The result is a thriller with no thrills, a shark movie where the CGI sharks are more engaging than the ostensible protagonists.

The inconsistency of Moore’s performance is so thorough that it feels purposeful. Her entire arc is made up of zeniths and nadirs, with little rhyme or reason as to how she arrives at a particular emotional expression. Holt isn’t any better; while the edges of her peaks and valleys are a bit more rounded, they aren’t nearly as extreme, rendering her kind of blah. At least Moore’s bad is vaguely interesting, even if it is mostly as an actor’s cautionary tale. Johnson and Gellman are non-entities, generically handsome plot devices. And who the hell knows how Matthew Modine wound up here, though he’s probably at the point in his career where a gig is a gig and a check is a check. He spends most of his screen-time looking mildly stunned, as if he’s as confused by his presence in this movie as we are.

Director Johannes Roberts has made his name in the horror biz, but there’s very little actually scary about this movie. Visually, there are a few strong moments, but for the most part, the aesthetic isn’t all that interesting. And the script – which Roberts co-wrote with Ernest Riera – plods through a series of predictable beats and a telegraphed (and kind of dumb) twist before finally, mercifully coming to an end after an interminable stretch that is somehow just 89 minutes in actual time.

“47 Meters Down” is a floundering misfire. While it might provide some visceral thrills to devotees of horror and/or sharks, they’d have to be awfully forgiving; in truth, even they might be better served by just staying home and watching the Discovery Channel.

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