47 Meters Down: Uncaged

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 08/27/19 05:23:11

"Second verse, not much better than the first."
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

If you're looking for a movie where a girl and her father have to swim away from something with way too many teeth for comfort, you've probably already missed this summer's decent entry in that genre, "Crawl". This movie - which sure as heck feels like a direct-to-video sequel that somehow retained the original creative team and wound up in theaters during a slow week - just serves as a reminder that the basic competence that made that movie a lot of fun isn't as easy as you'd think.

This time the sisters are step-siblings - although Sasha (Corinne Foxx) has had better luck making friends at the Yucatan private school whose entire student body seems to be the children of American expatriates than Mia (Sophie NĂ©lisse). Their parents (Nia Long & John Corbett) are trying to get them to spend more time with each other, so maybe it's not altogether a bad thing when they ditch a planned outing to hang out with Sasha's friends ALexa (Brianne Tju) and Nicole (Sistine Stallone) at a "secret" swimming hole near the entrance to the flooded underground city Mia's father Grant is mapping. He and his crew are on the other side, so it can't hurt to quickly explore the first chamber. Unless, that is, the shark's tooth Grant found has not, in fact, been there for centuries.

The first 47 Meters Down was not particularly good, but that one at least made a little effort to give the relationship between the trapped sisters some weight. This one just posits its stepsisters as a little bit less affectionate than indifferent and never really gives them a moment to bond or show friction or anything even before the sharks show up. You don't exactly need more than plain old survival on the line to make it tense, and in some ways it's kind of a relief that the filmmakers aren't pushing the idea that a bunch of people being eaten by sharks is emotionally offset by these girls learning to get along, but it would be nice if there were more to these girls than "the popular but not actively mean one", "the awkward one", "the one who seems to know what she's doing", and "the one who leaps before looking". They fill slots well enough, and none of the young actresses are bad, but none have the personal details that make them characters rather than generic chum.

Returning director Johannes Roberts and co-writer Ernest Riera push them through an obstacle course full of near-misses that looks a lot cooler at first glance than it winds up being. The idea of a lost, sunken city lets them come up with some nifty shots, but it's soon reduced to occasionally-glanced scenery that only doesn't often have any effect on what's going on. There's no sense of geography; giant blind sharks just appear out of nowhere as soon as there's room for them to move, and as neat as the image of Great Whites with vestigial white eyes is, these movies are often at their best when they seem a little less random. They're too massive to just come out of nowhere..

These issues combine in ways that make the whole thing generally underwhelming and frustrating. The PG-13 rating means that there's not going to be a lot in the way of shocking gore to juice any thrills that don't otherwise deliver, and as in the last movie, the diving equipment, low available light (though they do manage to come up with reasons to get it up to useful levels), and relatively few places they've given themselves to put a camera seems to force the filmmakers into shots where you can't see faces or even body language. It can at times be hard to tell which characters are in a shot unless you've been keeping track of their bikini bottoms, to the point where the lighting can make it hard to tell Sasha's dark skin from Mia's pasty legs. That the actresses are likely spending a lot of time doubled probably doesn't help; stunt performers can capture the personality of their characters, but it's not likely to happen when the filmmakers aren't asking that much of the people who get to show their faces.

"Uncaged" at least improves on its predecessor by not going in for an ending that tosses away what good will the film has earned, although its one-last-scare is still pretty darn dumb and is quite possibly there because theaters are much more likely to book an 89-minute movie than a 79-minute one. Roberts and Riera should probably move on from shark movies; they've had two chances and fallen short the same way twice.

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