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With: Paul Walker, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Scott Caan, Ashley Scott
Written by: Matt Johnson
Directed by: John Stockwell
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence, drug material, some sexual content and language
Running Time: 110
Date: 09/30/2005

Into the Blue (2005)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Stink or Swim

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The story of underwater treasure hunting, sharks and drug-dealing villains has already unfolded thousands of times on late night cable and on straight-to-video clunkers.

It's hard to imagine why Into the Blue would be any different, especially with Paul Walker and Jessica Alba as our leads. Walker has logged at least 24 hours of screen time so far without ever showing an interesting moment. And Alba seems to have hit a creative wall in films like Honey and Fantastic Four.

Yet, Into the Blue somehow keeps from drowning. As with his previous films Crazy/Beautiful (2001) and Blue Crush (2002) director John Stockwell slowly, confidently establishes the film's small universe and its simple players. When something ridiculous happens, it does so according to the rules.

Living in the Bahamas, Jared (Walker) and Sam (Alba) have come to know all the locals and can dive for three minutes by holding their breath. They're poor but happy with their run-down boat, beat-up truck and shabby dog. Stockwell somehow gets these actors to feel comfortable onscreen. Their line readings always ring true, and though they're not quite Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, they have a nice, quiet chemistry together.

Jared's obnoxious pal Bryce (Scott Caan) and Bryce's girlfriend Amanda (Ashley Scott) turn up just in time to help Jared and Sam go treasure hunting. Unfortunately they also find a planeload of illegal drugs. This leads to many chases and fights, and the director -- not surprisingly -- switches to the handheld jerky-cam, though his action sequences are far clearer than usual.

Stockwell still keeps things balanced, notably with the movie's amusing antagonists. As a rival treasure hunter, Josh Brolin (The Goonies) steals the movie with his savory line readings. The director also builds suspense by frequently showing the divers' air nearly running out and the various ways in which our heroes fight for one extra gasp of breath. The underwater photography, though not particularly groundbreaking, is quite lovely -- even though the movie randomly cuts without motivation from surface views to underwater views.

Ultimately, Into the Blue isn't nearly as bad as it looks, and those who considered Blue Crush a guilty pleasure will probably react the same here.

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