Bait 3D Review by Adam
I (and countless others) am always complaining about the lack of good, red-blooded genre films in this country. Occasionally, something freaky (Daybreakers and The Loved Ones) breaks through the sea of languid dramas, but I’m greedy; I want to rock up to the cinema every week and see a well-executed Aussie genre film on the billboard. Alas, I’m lucky to get one a year. I feel like the reason that Australian films often fail to ignite passion in the general public is that they rarely offer thrills, be they generated by effective action, horror or sci-fi. The flipside of my argument is Bait 3D. This is an expensive (by Australian standards), high concept (sharks in a supermarket!) genre film that features a great selection of Australian acting talent. There is just one problem: Bait 3D is bad. I mean really, really, fucking bad.
After losing his best friend Rory (Richard Brancatisano) in a shark attack, Josh (Xavier Samuel) is struggling to pick up the pieces of his life. He has left his post as a lifeguard and now works a thankless job in the local supermarket. To make matters even worse, his fiancée (the deceased’s sister) has abandoned him and travelled to Singapore. Josh’s emotional woes are the least of his problems though, as, unbeknownst to him, a giant tsunami is about to hit his coastal town. After surviving the initial wave, Josh and a motley group of survivors —including robbers, cops, brats, a Chihuahua and, conveniently, his recently returned ex-fiancée — have to survive rising water levels, and, more dramatically, a school of ravenous, great white sharks.
Any hope I had for Bait 3D was dashed within the first ten minutes. I’ve got nothing against the obligatory setting-up-the-tragedy-of-the-hero scene – hell, I normally love them (the start of Cliffhanger still rocks my world. ‘Don’t you lose her, Gabe!’). But Bait 3D’s start is a non-event; if anything, it sets a bad precedent for the rest of the film and leaves a shitty taste in your mouth. Our lead, Josh, is meant to paddle out and check the buoy, but no, his best friend Rory elects to go. So what if we know (automatically) that he is going to die? We just want to see how it happens – so far, so good. But after a scattering of semi-suspenseful underwater shots, director Kimble Rendall completely blows it – our first exposure to Bait 3D’s shark is abysmal. A dodgy, CGI shark disintegrates Rory’s surfboard and goes ‘yap, yap’ in the air. It is flat-out, fucking embarrassing and my audience had trouble holding onto their laughter. This would be fine if Bait 3D was meant to be tawdry fun (or had even a slight sense of humour). But no, this thing (except for a few notable exceptions) is played deadly straight.
Genre film or not, Bait 3D possesses the worst script in recent memory. The fact that this piece of shit is attributed to six writers is beyond head scratching. For simplicity I’ll heap a lot of the blame on lead writer Russell Mulcahy. Mulcahy (Highlander, Razorback) was once an interesting director who had a distinct visual style. But the years have not been kind to his career, and now he can be found pumping out subpar sequels in the Resident Evil and Scorpion King franchises. Rumour has it that he was fired off Bait 3D as a director, so only his writing credit remains. If he had any brains he’d have disavowed this shit completely. The way these characters are set up is so incredibly lame it beggars belief: we get a rough indication of their characteristics — thief, bimbo, bully — but it is delivered in the most clichéd way imaginable. No shit, before Julian McMahon’s duplicitous thief goes into the supermarket, he says to his partner in crime ‘after this job, my brother is out. You get me?’ Yet this plot device is never picked up…ever again. It would seem the writers put a character’s name in a hat and an equal number of clichés and shook it up – whatever two pieces came out they just stapled together.
While the script gives them fuck all to work with, the actors in this film should be ashamed of themselves; their performances make the average porno set seem Shakespearian. There is not one single, decent performance in this film. Xavier Samuel is a dead weight as the lead. I know his character is forged in tragedy, but not even a smidgen of charisma appears through the cracks. Since his involvement in the Twilight films (which he was actually decent in), Samuel has been elevated to leading man status, but it doesn’t fit. With his perma-scowl, prepubescent physique and goblin-like features he would be far more effective as a smarmy villain and not our man of action (by the way, when do Aussie lifeguards learn to use shotguns underwater?). Phoebe Tonkin, Sharni Vinson and Cariba Heine offer a trio of horrendous performances as the film’s female leads. With no explanation other than the fact that it might help the overseas box office, Vinson and Heine use dreadful faux-American accents. As for Tonkin, she is just flat-out hammy. Special mention must be made of Dan Wyllie: his performance is so over the top that it doesn’t even acknowledge a ceiling. It is ambitious and crazy acting that belongs in a better (less self-aware) picture.
Bait 3D’s biggest crime is its complete lack of suspense. Except for how shit the shark is at the start, this film contains zero surprises. Nadda. Zilch. Not a single character’s death carries any surprise. As dodgy as the CGI shark was in Deep Blue Sea, when it ate Samuel L. Jackson it knocked you off kilter and made you realise that no one was safe; here, that never happens. Hell, this script doesn’t even have the good sense to off its crappy peripheral characters, let alone its leads. You could have gone two ways with this material: serious and suspenseful or giddy and over the top. This film chooses the worst out of both options: it’s somehow both serious and over the top simultaneously.
The film does feature some great production design and occasionally decent effects (they also use a prosthetic shark that is a million times better than their computer generated one) but it never has the good sense to utilise it (what is the point of having environmental hazards if no one is going to fry?). This film should have descended into a fun pick-me-off like Final Destination; instead it features a complete lack of memorable deaths. Except for a scene where a character makes a one man shark cage out of supermarket goods, there is not one memorable set piece either (and that scene is only memorable because of how utterly fucking stupid it is). The 3D lensing is capable but of little consequence, as director Rendall crafts zero memorable compositions. Besides, this movie would be unbearable in any format, even if you had a bong and all-you-can-eat at Gold Class, you would still struggle to make the end.
If you want to see a good Aussie genre flick wait for 100 Bloody Acres. It is gruesome, well directed, superbly acted and often a hoot. In short, it’s everything Bait 3D is not. If this film’s lack of success (it hasn’t opened yet, but my atheism will be cemented if this earns its money back) is the reason that even less genre films get made in this country, I will go on a fucking rampage.