A film review by Craig J. Koban February 9, 2022

THE REQUIN j

2022, R, 89 mins.

Alicia Silverstone as Jaelyn  /  James Tupper as Kyle  /  Deirdre O'Connell as Anne  /  Jennifer Mudge as Lizzie

Written and directed by LÍ Văn Kiệt

I'm going to cut right to the chase when it comes to THE REQUIN: 

This is not only a categorically awful film, but it's also one of the phoniest looking serious minded shark attack thrillers that Iíve ever seen. 

Iíve read that this Le Van Kiet directed effort contains upwards of 1000 VFX shots, mostly because it wasnít shot on location at all, but rather on sound stages.  That's pretty staggering, when you think about it.  But with a miniscule budget of just under $10 million the level of obvious moviemaking fakery shows here. Boy, does it ever show in abundance.  That's not to say that compellingly rendered and intense action thrillers can't be made this way, but one of the fatal flaws with THE REQUIN is that it's limited resources - and usage of said limited resources - really appears on screen throughout.  The reliance on mediocre to downright wretch digital effects and computer composting robs this film of any grounded level of authentic terror...not to mention a soul.   

As far as survival-at-sea thrillers go, I never once bought that the characters here were ever at sea.  

Like...ever.   

LIFE OF PI this ain't. 

Also, it takes an egregiously long time for any sharks to make an appearance here, leading to the whole build-up to such moments feel like a relative eternity (not great when your film is also under 90 minutes in length).  The story introduces us to a married couple, Jaelyn (a truly slumming it Alicia Silverstone) and Kyle (James Tupper), who are trying to get some much needed R & R in Vietnam after both of them have suffered through Jaelyn's agonizing miscarriage during a home birthing attempt that went disastrously bad.  With his wife's mental state in a constant state of flux, Kyle has determined that both need to get away from everyone and everything, which led to him renting out a rather expensive "floating villa" with a most luxurious view of the ocean to help lift Jaelyn's spirits.   

Jaelyn's mother and sister keep in contact with her via Facetime to ensure that she's acclimating well to her new surroundings, even though the WiFi there is spotty (that's a big red flag of things to come).  They also seem a bit concerned about Jaelyn and Kyle's choice of vacation destination and the fact that their villa is quite exposed to the elements (another big red flag).  Both of them don't have much of a grasp of the local language, which means that they don't catch a local weather warning about an upcoming tropical storm that's about to ravage their area.  And - wouldn't ya know it! - the storm comes rolling in during the middle of the night and the couple wake up to discover to their horror that their villa has become a life raft that has begun drifting out the sea.  Kyle becomes horribly injured in the initial stages of this storm crashing through their home, which leaves Jaelyn needing to fend for both of them.  There's two major problems with this: (1) water and the sight of blood in it acts as a trigger mechanism that reminds Jaelyn of her miscarriage trauma and (2) once she gets triggered she becomes paralyzed with panic inducing fear.  Complicating matters immensely is that their villa gets farther away from civilization and dry land, not to mention that a pesky and ravenous shark gets lured into their villa by Kyle's blood leaking leg in the waters. 

 

 

Worst.  Vacation.  Ever. 

One thing (among many, I assure you) that gnawed away at me (sorry for the shark puns) while watching THE REQUIN is that I simply didn't like Jaelyn and Kyle as characters.  They're damaged by an irrecoverable loss, yes, and deserve our empathy, but their interplay in the film (involving considerably iffy dialogue exchanges) becomes so distractingly overbearing that the longer the story progressed the less and less I cared for them or their well being.  I simply didn't care if they lived or die.  These are just insufferable people.  I mean, just close your eyes and imagine hearing lines like "We're the unluckiest couple in the world!" or "The baby didn't have a heartbeat, so she never had a chance!" or "I dragged us into this!" or (my favorite unintentionally hilarious one) "I could have been more patient with your PTSD!"  Tikes.  If the lethally bad dialogue wasn't brutal enough, the idiotic choices made by this couple struggling to survive at sea really, really makes it hard to latch on to them with any rooting interest.  THE REQUIN is one of those kind of films that makes you want to throw you hands up in disgust while witnessing the ineptitude of the characters.  I felt this way when they made one (of several) cardinal blunder while trying to flag a plane flying overhead in the skies that might spot and save them.  They build a signal flare/fire, but it's made so poorly that it burns down their floating villa.  I laughed uncontrollably during this sequence.  I don't think this was the exact intentions of the makers. 

Speaking of knee slapping hilarity, the look of this film.  Wow.  Where do I even start?  The entirety of THE REQUIN was shot on a couple of green screen stages at Universal Studios in Orlando (yeah, my first choice when it comes to replicating the look of...Vietnam).  What was Le-Van Kiet thinking?  Could he not have filmed some of this on actual locations...or beaches...or on any body of water that could have passed for the ocean?  Early shots involving the characters simply looking outside of their villa look hysterically phony and are the product of wretched compositing.  Later on when we get a would-be epic crane shot showing the villa floating dangerously out to sea the effects work here is so cheaply amateurish that it makes the film look like it cost eight bucks versus eight million.  And we're not just talking about a few shots and sequences here, folks.  Everything in THE REQUIN is the product of truly ugly CGI and sets and props being inserted into the fake looking backgrounds.  And, uh-huh, the shark is a flimsy computer creation too; it's rendered so flatly that it looks like an entity from discarded cut scenes from video games of multiple generations ago.  When the attacking shark and the environment around it looks completely bogus then it's excruciatingly hard to invest in THE REQUIN...even on a level of pure retrograde B-movie thrills.  And the way this film wants to have its cake and eat it too (in terms of wishing to be a sobering tale of a husband and wife dealing with losing a baby in child birth and a pure gory grindhouse survival horror flick) turned me off in a big way. 

I'll finish by saying this: Silverstone isn't terrible in THE REQUIN at all.  In fact, she gives a thanklessly committed performance here.  It doesn't always work (she's attempting to turn lemons into lemonade), but she's aiming high for raw, emotional authenticity at least, so I'll give her that.  But why - oh why! - is the world of this film built around her decent acting foundation so eye-strainingly artificial in construction and execution?  This creates a problematic disconnect in THE REQUIN.  Again, memorably immersive films can be made utilizing this digital backlot process, but only if done right (see the mostly forgotten SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW or SIN CITY or 300, just to name a few), but THE REQUIN simply doesn't know how to play within this filmmaking sandbox.  Also, considering the fact that another aquatic themed thriller like, say, CRAWL contained infinitely more believable VFX work involving tropical storms and man-eating wildlife with a budget just a few million dollars more than THE REQUIN is terribly telling.  

If you want to see a sensational micro-budgeted shark thriller then check out 2004's OPEN WATER, which cost roughly ten times less than THE REQUIN, but contained such tangible levels of pure you-are-there terror that it deserved worthy comparisons to the original JAWS.  

As for THE REQUIN?  If there ever existed the film equivalent of jumping the shark of the shark genre...then this is it. 

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