Under Paris

Under Paris
Under Paris
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It feels at times as though there are more films about sharks than there are fish in the sea. However, most of these are not only bad but they appear to be proud of their badness. This is due to Sharknado, that terrible portmanteau of a portside cable schlock, or The Meg, which is as cheap as one might imagine yet with the budget of a blockbuster. These two movies must be playing some role in the regular appearance of a plethora of shallow fin flicks every summer along our beaches. There isn’t a rubbery enough monster or an unconvincing enough leviathan or an amateurish performance pathetic enough to prevent these low-budget horror films from being forgotten forever. Is it any wonder then that chum is frequently dumped by studios, streamers and networks when viewers ask for nothing but ridiculous aquatic tales and bloodthirsty Rifftrax?

With regard to Under Paris (now on Netflix and currently ranked #1 among movies available on the platform at this time), it’s head and shoulders above other shark movies in terms of quality. It’s almost like Jaws compared to your average wannabe Jaws film you know? No doubt, this movie is absurd – but no less so for its straightforward treating of the ludicrous premise – that there is a man-eating shark running around under city lights in Paris. Yet, what makes it better than some other shark movies is that those responsible were able to produce something competent that goes beyond merely provoking nasty responses from random viewers. It doesn’t fall under ‘so bad it’s good’ category which compensates slightly for not making it into ‘actually good.’

In fact, amongst Steven Spielberg’s classic summer blockbusters this is perhaps one out of very few descendants which also has badly developed plots. “Jaws in Paris” follows the general structure of a story about mutated mako shark traveling from Thames all way to Seine. (Darwin’s opening text sets a tone for the rest of the thriller that will prove both overly pretentious and exceedingly mercenary.) In a typical scientifically sounding info-dump, we are told that pollution and global warming led to the shark developing its ability to live in fresh water. But don’t fret; this is an eco-friendly monster movie where “bleeding heart environmentalist” is literal.

After all, when people start getting eaten alive by half-starved sharks surfacing from the bottom of it, mayor Anne Marivin would like nothing better than to carry on with a big river triathlon event. (It appears that carnivorous capitalism doesn’t begin and end with Amity Island.) Having lost all her colleagues three years ago in a meeting with this sea creature, Sophia (The Artist’s Bérénice Bejo) becomes out Hooper figure here. It is not necessary for us to treat her loss as seriously as the film does. Bejo’s immersion into the role seems like a desperate SOS – you want to save such an overqualified actress from drowning in canned melodrama. We suspect she’ll enjoy sitting back while her life happens around her like Michael Caine did before her given how stars tend to be treated by movies they’re involved in.

There’s a Brody here, as well – hardened policeman Adil (Nassim Lyes) who initially goes head to head with Bejo’s heroine but only discovers after looking at the photograph on his desk that there are few differences between the two of them. Unfortunately, Under Paris does not provide room for a Robert Shaw type or any character one might care about. On the other hand, this is more like a set menu: These policemen and women mostly watch little shark-shaped squares floating across their computer screens before becoming fish lives. No one should be surprised at being ruthless since cult French gorefest Frontier(s) by its director Xavier Gens was released earlier.

Gans seems to give Under Paris some kind of drone-shot adequacy that we always see in most of such Netflix time-wasters. Sometimes, it could appear as if the pictures have become very beautiful colorful swimming costumes; at least you will be glad to recognize everything happening below the water surface. (As far as clarity of deep-sea footage goes, it’s closer to the shimmering legibility of The Way of Water than the unintelligible murk of Wakanda Forever.) Shorty put, they look better when they’re gliding ominously slow, giving realism out but when moving in for prey looks fake-k-oed cheap.

This reminds us how our top CGI experts still find movement puzzling even though these guys are film-makers.

The fun element that can be found in Under Paris lies mainly on how efficiently dull it is all through. It just keeps going beyond some colleagues’ corpses left behind by sharks; from one pursuit to another till last breaths. While funny stuff is unintentional here which is much preferred than Syfy programmers’ deliberate awfulness trying to create a cult following especially within what may be called “cult-courting” circles among critics thereof. And once this occurs, it comes with persistent messiness let loose: A rampage through the flooded catacombs (yes, even sharks swim there) is only outmatched by the film’s scatterbrained destructive ending that ends in a series of exploding bridges and Paris half submerged. The closest any of this ever really comes to Jaws is the “dun dun” sound in the Netflix logo, which is a relative of John Williams’ iconic theme. But in a shallow pond of modern shark thrillers, Under Paris is no minnow.


The bar for shark movies lies near the bottom of the ocean, so it’s no great victory that Under Paris’ Gallic riff on Jaws neatly clears it. All the same, if your appetite for the genre extends beyond the claptrap that swam in Sharknado’s wake, there’s some dumb fun to be had in watching an overqualified cast chase and get swallowed by a mutated mako munching up Parisians in the Seine. Just don’t expect much in the way of genuine scares in the orgy of digital gnashing director Xavier Gens supplies.

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