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INTO THE BLUE (PG-13) (2005)

Sony Pictures

Official Site

Director: John Stockwell

Producer: David Zelon

Written by: Matt Johnson

Cast: Paul Walker, Jessica Alba, Scott Caan, Ashley Scott, Josh Brolin, Tyson Beckford


Ah, the Bahamas. Where the beautiful people gather to romp and play, quaff frilly, fruit-garnished spirits, and every now and then, hack each other to blessed bits over sunken treasure.

Such is the dicey travelogue offered by Blue Crush director John Stockwell’s swimsuit-friendly, Pirates-of-the-O.C. action thriller Into The Blue, wherein four comely young divers, hunting for some serious undersea booty (wink), run afoul of a murderous pack of less-comely young drug-traffickers, with disastrous and generally un-comely results.

A little background: Stockwell, a Galveston-born, Harvard-educated surf nut, also co-wrote the screenplay for Blue Crush, and is developing a surf-themed series called “Rocky Point” for the WB.

Dude’s got a thing for water.

Thus, his latest venture spends more of its time sub-sea-level than just about any flick since, oh, say, Finding Nemo. Its cameras drift dreamily across the ocean floor, sopping up giddy, indulgent eyefuls of disgustingly fit cast members as they slither past wall-sized schools of brilliant fish, occasionally stirring, perchance, a napping stingray or two. Stockwell’s in heaven, and it shows. Just as Blue Crush used gonzo surf shots as its bread and butter, breathing easiest as it lovingly captured glittery, towering waves topped with pretty people, Into The Blue never waits too long before returning gleefully to the ocean, jumping in and splashing around with all the release and exuberance of the kid who’s finally at the beach after wearing his swim trunks for six hours in the car. The film plays like a combination crime caper, National Geographic documentary, and hardbody contest (sort of a college-aged Lethal Weapon swimsuit issue), and lo and behold, it works. Not that there’s anything too terribly ground-breaking here—it’s a story you’ve seen a good many times before, just in a somewhat new setting—but it sets out without pretense to be nothing but fun, and darn if it isn’t just that. I was dead-set, even looking forward to hating it when I took my seat, and by the end I wasn’t even that resentful that it didn’t let me.

We open with a plane crash, whose direct results include a handful of deaths (of no consequence) and the offhand depositing of several million dollars’ worth of cocaine at sea bottom. This is our prologue. We then cut, and are introduced to Jared (Walker) and Sam (Alba), a happy, if less-than-rolling-in-it couple doing the Bon Jovi thing, staying content by dreaming their dreams and making out sloppily at every opportunity. Jared’s one of those good guys, a nice kid with integrity and grand visions of making it via the undersea bullion route. Sam’s the perfect girl, a down-to-earth soul who doesn’t care about the money and believes in her man. (And both, as the camera dutifully reminds us, have bodies chiseled from Olympian marble; poor Jessie is onscreen literally—literally—two to three seconds before we’re treated to a gratuitous cleavage shot. Whatever.) When Jared quits his diving-instructor job to hunt for treasure full-time, it’s all, “What’s going to happen to them now?” until best buddy Bryce (Caan) and his easy-on-the-eyes companion (relative newcomer Ashley Scott) sweep into town to save the day. Bryce is a criminal lawyer (very hard to buy, but okay...), and as such, has money—it’s not long before the foursome is stripped of their street clothes and in full-fledged frolic out on the deck of some shiny new boat. The girls slink around being all curvy, the boys flex and punch each other and call each other “bro” an awful lot, and everyone sort of glides around in the water, reveling languidly in how trim and suntanned and Bowflex-y they are. And here’s where the filmmakers truly reward the scads of fellas who’ve filed into the theater just to see Alba pseudo-sans-garments. It may not be quite accurate to say the camera loves her—more like the camera parked outside her bedroom window in a bush with high-powered binoculars. There are plenty of shots of the other kids, sure, but Stockwell makes it clear he knows who his cover girl is.

Anyway, soon enough, the gang happens upon not one, but two caches of rich-making bounty: One is the multi-million-dollar drug plane, the other, a long-rumored (and apparently true-life) pirate vessel known as the Zephyr, worth appreciably more. Predictably, there is a scuffle over what to do with the discovery; all parties want the gold, but moral compass Sam insists that they need to go to the proper authorities about the coke. The others, however, fear that swarms of police boats and helicopters will compromise the Zephyr find, and more predictably, she is won over. So the story moves along brightly—there are more diving sequences, chirpy music plays, shots of Alba’s ass are doled out like Halloween candy—until a group of drug dealers (including Tyson Beckford, sporting a Mr. T ’do and a Jamaican accent, and James Frain as a cool and lizardly British kingpin—sort of an evil, reptilian Mr. Bean vibe) catch wind that their lost shipment has been found, and the cat-and-mouse is on.

Ultimately, the credit for the picture’s success must go to Stockwell, who manages to keep everyone happy by slathering on generous dollops of abs and bum, adds more than enough ocean and water sport to keep himself and the other surf-heads involved, mixes in a little action, some laughs, and a bit of genuine suspense, and keeps the whole thing moving along without dragging or rushing. (Ups too, then, to editors Nicolas De Toth and Dennis Virkler, for good pacing.) Walker, of course, sucks, but not so much as to damage the story; he is humdrum, but harmless. Alba mucks her bigger, more challenging lines, but is otherwise all right, and Caan adds the color. (He’s a predictable smart-ass, but even the predictable ones can be funny.) No more is asked of Scott than to be pretty, and a little bitchy and untrustworthy, and she does that fine. Josh Brolin (’member the big brother from The Goonies?) is a nice touch, as Walker’s coolly menacing treasure-huntin’ rival—sort of a Jimmy Buffett-as-an-asshole thing. Finally, everyone does what is expected of them, and the movie floats along nicely. It’s not a deep one, but it doesn’t pretend to be. It’s effective and enjoyable, even interesting—like a better and more seasoned Blue Crush, for boys.

—Brian Villalobos

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