Shark movies are delightful. Whether it’s the inviting, tropical settings, their reflection of our own aquatic fears, or the built-in suspense of watching nice people trying to survive harrowing circumstances, tense and suspenseful movies like Jaws allow us to turn our brains off and let our imaginations run wild. The Requin, directed by Le-Van Kiet (Furie), falls into this category fairly well. It doesn’t require too much thought to wrap your head around its formulaic plot beats which makes it (at the very least) a solid piece of popcorn entertainment.
The film revolves around married couple Jaelyn (Alicia Silverstone) and Kyle (James Tupper) who treat themselves to a tropical Vietnam vacation after suffering a miscarriage. But what begins as the trip of a lifetime turns deadly when they come face-to-face with a series of disastrous weather conditions, as well as a shiver of sharks.
While the characters’ loss is a good start to instill the audience’s empathy, Jaelyn and Kyle aren’t given enough depth for us to really become invested in their arcs or plot developments, both the uplifting and the unfortunate. Jaelyn blames herself for her miscarriage but she’s never really afforded the opportunity to develop into someone who is defined by something else except her crushing loss. Her circumstances are dire, but Silverstone plays her in a way that reads as exaggeratedly unhinged rather than reasonably frazzled. There’s quite a lot of screamed dialogue, expository conversations, and too many on-the-nose lines regarding her PTSD that prevent her from being a fully formed or relatable character.
The beautifully-shot locations are a pleasure to watch (especially the underwater shots), but the film’s plot is where much of the issues reside. For a film whose marketing materials rely heavily on the concept of humans versus sharks, it’s especially frustrating that it takes exactly 59 of the film’s 90 minutes before a shark appears on screen. Instead, the flick spends most of its time putting its leads through the wringer as they’re faced with a brutal storm that tears their above-water villa off its moorings, away from shore, and into the ocean. That’s right, their villa literally floats away. It’s easy to imagine how this plot development could’ve been seen as raising the film’s tension and stakes, but the way it’s executed makes it come across as silly. It doesn’t help that much of the weather, water, and shark effects are rendered with extremely questionable CGI that immediately takes you out of the film.
Kiet seems to forget that the bulk of the film’s tension and thrills come when Jaelyn and Kyle come face-to-face with the sharks surrounding them, so when he instead chooses to focus the bulk of the runtime on them being stranded at sea, the pacing slows down considerably. Not to mention that both characters make increasingly bad decisions from then on, such as trying to create a rescue smoke signal on their wooden raft (you can imagine how that turns out) and Jaelyn diving back into the water to save her husband after he’s attacked.
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For a film with a French title that literally means shark, it’s noticeably short on shark action. The Requin seems confused between whether it wants to be a character-focused survival drama, or an intense genre feature. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite succeed at either. It definitely ranks above a SyFy original movie, but it’s (nautical) miles away from superior and nail-biting films like The Shallows or 47 Meters Down. If you’re looking for a fun and breezy film to unwind after a stressful workday, you probably won’t be disappointed, but you won’t be blown away, either. The Requin, unlike the sharks it features, lacks bite.
The Blu-ray release of The Requin is fairly short on special features, though it does come loaded with an audio commentary with writer and director Le-Van Kiet, as well as a 9-minute featurette entitled “Making The Requin.” The featurette sees Kiet discussing various aspects of the film’s conception and production, especially filming in both Vietnam and Florida, the characters’ emotional journeys, as well as the special effects. It’s a breezy featurette that offers some insight into the filming process and makes a nice capstone to the film.