2012 | 93min
You know that old fisherman’s story? The one about the fisherman who, when trapped next to a car in an underground carpark, braced his feet under shark’s jaws, put his shotgun under its chin and blew the shark’s brains out? Haven’t heard that one? Clearly you don’t hang around the docks. What about the one where the fisherman flips into the air like a gymnast, latches his legs onto sprinkler system pipes then tases a breaching great white shark? Haven’t heard that one either? Well, no worries. It doesn’t matter that you’re clearly out of touch with the lives of ol’ salty sea dogs you drylander because Bait has all of the above and more for you.
Bait opens with Josh (Xavier Samuel), fresh off his buck’s night, too hungover to go check a buoy at an ocean beach where he works as a lifeguard. His future brother-in-law heads out to do it for him and then gets eaten, along with another fellow, by a great white shark. Fast forward to twelve months later and the engagement is long broken off and Josh is toiling at a supermarket, living in tortured guilt. Things aren’t going great then along comes an earthquake and tsunami and suddenly the store is flooded. With the ocean water comes a great white shark into the supermarket as well.
But it’s not just great white sharks, an earthquake, a tsunami and Josh’s ongoing depression. The tsunami interrupted both an armed robbery and, separately, petty shoplifting! Also Josh’s ex-fiance Tina is in the store! And so is her new boyfriend! And the shoplifter’s boyfriend works at the store! And also it interrupts some car sex in the underground carpark! And there’s another great white there! If this sounds like there’s a bit too much going on in this film, it’s because there is. And the convolution takes a lot of the fun out of what could have been a supremely silly creature feature or disaster film.
The basic idea behind Bait is: sharks are hunting people in a supermarket. No matter what you contrive in order to get there, that premise is fundamentally silly. You can lean into the silliness or you can play it straight and juxtapose the weirdness of what follows. What you cannot do is try to squeeze an emotional action-drama out of it. It doesn’t matter how good the performances are and, apart from a cartoonish robber, they are fine performances. When the script demands nonsense and silliness and you turn in a dramatic man’s conquest of nature with ninety-four subplots, you’re gonna flunk.
Like all shark attack movies, Bait fails to ask: could a shark even do any of this? In the opening scene the shark eats two adult grown men in under one minute. A shark couldn’t eat one of them in that time nor could it eat one of them entirely at all. An exceptionally large great white, stretching the boundaries of possibility, could possibly eat most of a globally average sized woman but it would take a little while. Once they’re in the supermarket, the shark, estimated in the film to be around 12ft long which means it weighs approximately 1000lbs, eats its body weight in people. It is a mark of both laziness and incompetence that filmmakers struggle to create effective drama around a human/shark encounter. Instead, they create monsters in the shark’s place. That doesn’t mean the film can’t still be fun or compelling around that monster. But it’s neither in this case. Just a bland, overstuffed turkey.