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Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: The Meg

“Mile 22” and “Alpha” are also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

Jason Statham puts aside his high-kicking, quick-punching escapades as Jonas Taylor, deep dive rescue expert. While this character may not snap kick faces with joyful aplomb as Statham characters often do, Jonas is no less brave and badass. Certainly more so than me. Put it this way: Midway through “The Meg,” he voluntarily swims up to the giant megalodon (fun fact: this means “big tooth”) shark of the title to shoot a tracking device on to its fin. I wouldn’t.

“The Meg” hits the ground running, showing the tragic event in Taylor’s past that forced him to retire to a life of steady beer drinking and shabby boat repair jobs in Taiwan. After things go pear-shaped during a deep sea expedition involving Taylor’s ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee), Taylor’s old friends--who are also part of the expedition--Mac (Cliff Curtis) and Zhang (Winston Chao) convince Taylor to go to their deep underwater facility to rescue Lori and her two crew members Wall (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) and Toshi (Masi Oka). He begrudgingly accepts, and lucky for all involved, five years of constant beer drinking didn’t give Taylor a beer belly or inhibit his senses in any way. This fact alone makes it clear that he is no mere mortal.

Also on the facility are Suyin (Bingbing Li) and Meiying (Sophia Cai), Zhang’s daughter and granddaughter. Suyin knows her way around the cockpit of a deep diving craft and mounts a rescue attempt of her own. Little does she, or anyone, know the humongous and dangerous surprise waiting in the murky depths. It’s a surprise that not only disables Suyin’s vessel, but also follows her, Taylor, and the rescues up above a sub-zero thermal layer that previously prevented it from reaching new heights.

The surprise is, of course, the megalodon—a seventy-foot long prehistoric shark thought to be extinct for at least 2.5 million years. There is excitement and debate around this discovery. The scientists need to decide on the best way to handle it for study—capture or kill. The billionaire financing the expedition, named Morris (Rainn Wilson), thinks more in terms of profits and his company’s reputation. At one point Zhang gets philosophical about how humans make great discoveries and then destroy. This is met with a well-timed roll of the eyes by Morris. I have to say I’m with him on this one. I’m all for not destroying that which isn’t out to destroy me. But when a seventy-foot shark with a huge mouth wants to have a bay full of beach-goers for lunch, my compassion for the creature flies right out the window.

TheMeg2

“The Meg” is basically the love child of 1989’s “The Abyss” and 1975’s “Jaws.” Astute viewers will also see the influences of “Jaws 2” and “Jaws 3.” An influence by “Jaws: The Revenge” was not spotted by me, hopefully because the writers left that one out—that movie really is bad.

The CGI on the shark is well-textured and very convincing. It’s easy to suspend disbelief that the shark and the live actors in the water are occupying the same space. While Statham may not have the opportunity to do any hand chopping in this movie, he does at one point narrowly escape from the megalodon by fiercely kicking at it with both legs. That’s as close as he comes to kicking something in this movie, and I’ll take it. Rent it.

Also New This Week

Mile 22

Mark Wahlberg plays one of his most interesting characters to date in “Mile 22.” Too bad that after the movie sets up him and his neuroses, it turns into yet another run of the mill, paint by number, shoot ‘em up, blow’em up, beat ‘em up kind of movie.

I would love to see a movie with this character in it without the distraction of mindless action violence. In “Mile 22,” Wahlberg plays James Silva. From a young age, he had a very fast mind and an even faster temper. To help him cope with the frustration of the perceived stupidity and slowness of everyone around him, his mother gave him a yellow band to wear around his wrist and snap whenever he felt tense. Needless to say, throughout the course of “Mile 22,” about Silva and his covert government team’s mission to get an informant (Iko Uwais) to safety across a hostile city, he snaps the band a lot.

Silva is smart, forceful, intense, and prone to fits of anger in which he very colorfully chews people out. He doesn’t care if you’re a foreign diplomat or a lowly IT worker trying to crack a difficult code. If Silva has something to say to you, you’re going to hear it, completely unfiltered. This of course comes across as brash and bullying to most, but to those who understand him, like his right hand woman Alice Kerr (Lauren Cohan), they can handle the bold-faced truth he dishes out. They also know he’s an organized and capable leader who has what it takes to get the job done.

Alice is interesting too. Her years of lying and being estranged from her husband and daughter are getting to her. Cohan plays the rage to the rafters, conveying her character’s frustration at the situation she is in and not being able to do simple things like bake cookies for Mother’s Day. Like Silva, she also has a short temper. This is bad news for her when a monitoring app called “Family Wizard” red flags a text every time she drops the F-bomb to her husband in a fit of rage.

So “Mile 22” sets us up with two great characters who are very much alike. Both Silva and Kerr are frustrated people, albeit for different reasons. They are also both prone to fits of anger and hostility to those around them--though Kerr’s is certainly more directed at her husband, who I honestly can’t blame for acting the way he does based on what he knows.

Then what does the movie do with these great characters? It treats them like standard, one-dimensional cardboard characters and plunges them into a situation of seemingly endless violence with other one-dimensional cardboard characters who we didn’t get to know and care about even less. After the first act of this movie, once the plot kicks in and the race across the city starts, all promise of something interesting happening is sucked away. “Mile 22” lays there as lifeless as the corpses that Silva and Kerr leave in their wake. Stream it.

More New Releases: “Alpha,” about a young prehistoric hunter who gets separated from his tribe and must find his way home with a wolf companion by his side, starring Kodi Smit-McPhee; “Juliet, Naked,” love triangle romantic comedy starring Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke, and Chris O'Dowd; “Final Score,” about an ex-soldier fighting to save his kidnapped niece and prevent mass destruction, starring Dave Bautista, Pierce Brosnan, and Ray Stevenson; and “The Marine 6: Close Quarters,” because apparently five of these movies just wasn’t enough.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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