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December 6, 2013

Bait

by Franz Patrick


Bait (2012)
★ / ★★★★

Josh (Xavier Samuel) and Tina (Sharni Vinson) were supposed to get married but their plans changed when Rory, Tina’s brother, is killed in a shark attack. Some time has passed since the tragedy and Josh has found a job in a supermarket. Although it seems like the most exciting part of everybody’s day is Doyle (Julian McMahon) being forced by a masked man (Dan Wylie) to steal money from the place, a tsunami hits the coast and interrupts the robbery. The survivors, after gathering their wits, find themselves trapped inside the supermarket with two great white sharks hungry for live bait.

Written by John Kim and Russell Mulcahy, although the premise of “Bait” is quite promising, it is not able to deliver on an entertainment level because it is reluctant to embrace the inherent cheese imbedded in its sub-genre’s marrow.

Strangely, the frequency of shark attacks is scarce. While I liked, to a degree, that the writing is eager to preserve its characters’ lives instead disposing them like fish food, their personalities and backstories are simply not interesting enough to warrant chunks of the screen time. The strained father-daughter (Damien Garvey, Phoebe Tonkin) relationship is entirely predictable and the reunion of Tina and Josh is laughable at best.

In the former, the concept of self-sacrifice is touched upon to prove to the audiences that even though they are not able to get along, they still love each other. A nice twist would have been the father being eaten by a shark early on in order for the daughter, a “tough” chick who likes to test her luck against the law, to learn that sometimes the messed up ways in which we treat others cannot be undone no matter how sorry we end up feeling at the end of the day.

As with the latter, the writing tries so hard to build chemistry from what simply is not there. When the couple look into each other’s eyes or touch each other just so, I felt nothing. There is neither tenderness nor longing. Their interactions are so desert dry in spark and deadly dull execution, I began to question if they even had a history. Its self-seriousness permeates through every square inch of what is supposed to be an exciting and scary situation.

On the plus side, the picture is able to provide some good shots. I liked it when the sharks are allowed to get very close to the actors and we are suspended in anticipation as to whether there will be an attack. For instance, when the arguing couple (Lincoln Lewis, Cariba Heine) are stuck inside their car because the underground parking lot is flooded, a shark about five to six feet away calmly swims across the windshield, as if they were in an aquarium, and they get to appreciate the sheer size of the creature. Who would risk venturing outside the vehicle after seeing such a predator?

Another person stuck in the parking lot is Ryan (Alex Russell), the boyfriend of one of the survivors inside the supermarket. I wondered why he was not made to be the main character because, like Josh, there is a goodness about him. If more people inside became fish food early on, perhaps the material would have had time for us to get to know him. And if the writers really wanted to explore its characters a bit more, perhaps Ryan could have served as Josh’s foil.

Ultimately, “Bait,” directed by Kimble Rendall, fails to relish and play upon the irony of people going to the supermarket to buy food—fish, for instance. In this case, the fish come to shop for their food. There really ought to have been more shark attacks.

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