Great White (2021) Disappointingly Does Not Deliver Great Shark Horror
Title: Great White
First Non-Festival Release: May 7, 2021 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Martin Wilson
Writer: Michael Boughen
Runtime: 91 Minutes
Starring: Katrina Bowden, Aaron Jakubenko, Kimie Tsukakoshi
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Charlie (Aaron Jabubenko) and Kaz (Katrina Bowden), along with their good-natured coworker Benny (Te Kohe Tuhaka) charter flights on their seaplane to tourists hoping to soak up the sun and snorkel in the beautiful coasts of Australia. Their latest guests, rich couple Joji (Tim Kano) and Michelle (Kimmie Tsukakoshi), take them to a cozy cove where Michelle plans to scatter the ashes of her late grandfather. What was supposed to be a nostalgic and sweet moment turns sour when they discover the dead body of a shark attack victim washed ashore. Due to misadventure the group finds themselves stranded in the ocean with a great white shark hunting them.
Great White doesn’t have the jaws to pull off more than the bare minimum in this so-so shark flick.
Shark horror is a fan favorite sub-genre despite many high-quality flicks and Great White is another entry in the long disappointing history of sharksploitation. The entire predicament our heroes find themselves in feels so forced and doesn’t make much sense when you scrutinize it too much. A moment worthy of multitudinous eyerolls happens early on that establishes the dynamic you can expect throughout the film. Every now and then the film subverts expectations on how the characters do or don’t get out of a situation, but by the end it’s clear who has the plot armor to make it out alive.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about the characters. All the players are rather one note with the surprising exception of Tim Kano’s Joji, who has some surprising layers to him. Everyone else could easily be copy and pasted into any type of creature feature and not feel out of place. The actors themselves play the parts fine without being given much to work with in their roles. The dialogue is laughable. Generally expository in nature, it still manages to evoke cringes and deep sighs.
Great White borrows plenty and owes its existence to The Shallows from set pieces to character and creature design. It’s amazing how many moments feel directly inspired even though the films contrast in both cast size and location. The shark cgi is a mess when it comes to any action but is fine when it is shots of them stalking their prey. Moments where it is on display at its worst are the most prevalent. Similarly, sharks don’t make noise, but these ones do! Their roars are honestly the funniest thing about the film, which is likely not the intention.
While it isn’t a good film per se, Great White has its moments. We are treated to some beautiful shots of the scenery, both in the sky and underwater, that make for some cinematic eye candy. There’s also a nice use of color with the blues/greens and red from blood and flares. It gives the film a more grandiose feel to it, even if it isn’t super meaningful or artistic. It’s clearly focused more on style than substance, but at least it executes with more competence than plenty of other shark films can say. It balances the scale between the serious and silly while being a brisk and almost-entertaining watch.
As someone who is constantly searching for the next great shark attack flick, disappointment is a constant yet reasonable state. What it lacks in a believable script and compelling characters it makes up for in beautiful aerial shots and laughter inducing shark roars. Despite its ready-made set up for success, Great White jumps into the shallows and sinks nonetheless under the weight of its bland and repetitive narrative. Sharksploitation fans will find enough here to chew on, but general genre fans or average moviegoers won’t find many scraps of enjoyment to scavenge. After watching Great White, like many of you, I am still on the search for my own white whale: the next good shark horror.
Overall Score? 5/10