It was only a matter of time before Australia tackled the horror genre of the mighty great white shark preying on helpless humans. Following mediocre shark attack movie The Reef in 2010, Australia’s next attempt comes in the form of Bait, available in both 2D and 3D and directed by The Matrix sequels’ second unit director, Kimble Rendall.
Josh (Xavier Samuel) is a lifeguard working on the coast of Queensland, Australia until one day he fails to rescue his best friend from a great white shark attack. Traumatised, he quits his job and loses fiancé, Tina (Sharni Vinson), his best friend’s sister. A couple of years later while Josh is working in a local seafront store within a shopping centre, Tina turns up fresh from a trip to Japan with new boyfriend Steven (Qi Yuwu). At the same time reluctant thief Doyle (Julian McMahon) and crazed criminal Kirby (Dan Wyllie) are carrying out an armed robbery in the store. With only the briefest of warnings a tsunami hits the shore, killing many in its path and flooding the shopping centre and the garage below where others are trapped. However, it soon becomes clear that confinement and the rising water level are not the only threats as two 12ft long great white sharks meander in and circle the survivors.
Bait is essentially a low-budget disaster movie that quickly becomes a horror. With no background on the tsunami or sense of imminent danger the film tries instead to focus on the shark threat. With the madcap premise of vicious sharks hunting humans in a flooded shopping centre, this should be some tawdry but enjoyable entertainment. Instead we get a thin plot saturated with weak characters, desperately poor dialogue and feeble sub-plots of family and relationships, particularly the genuinely cringe worthy love story between the protagonists and Josh’s determination to redeem himself and be the hero. There is also too much nonsensical action, probably due to the fact that the film had a surplus of writers and the original director was replaced. One laughable scene occurs when one of the survivors gets geared up in a makeshift suit of armour of bits of shopping trollies and gaffer tape with tinned food to weigh him down. Looking like a ludicrous version of Iron Man he tries to safely pass the sharks underwater – and fails. The effects in the first part are somewhat lacking but thankfully they improve halfway through. After this point the sharks become more believable with some decent, limb-ripping gore in the form of CGI. The initial beachfront setting allows for some stunning visuals but unfortunately this is dumbed down once the action reaches the shopping centre.
This is pretty much a teenage horror and there are many faces here from the world of Australian soap operas. So, while you would expect an array of scantily clad guys and gals, the film actually shirks this in favour of a focus on each character and their predicament. The overload of characters in the film are passable (perhaps with the exception of the dumb blonde couple trapped in the basement) but as they are all immersed in their own pointless sub plots and all actors seem to favour an acting style based on melodramatic looks, it is hard to empathise with them. Ultimately you are waiting for time to pass until one or more of them become shark bait.
Bait is a tolerable but lacking thriller that needs a much stronger dose of tension and atmosphere, with less characters and sub-plots that detract from the action. It is yet another shark attack movie that just cannot defeat the mighty Jaws.