Directed by Alexandre Aja
Starring Elisabeth Shue, Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd, Richard Dreyfus, Jerry O’Connell, Adam Scott, Steven R. McQueen, Jessica Szohr, Eli Roth
Screenplay by Really?
The best moment in the movie Piranha 3D (or just plain Piranha in 2D) happens early in the movie. Crusty old Richard Dreyfus climbs in a boat, grabs a line and a beer, and then drops his beer in the middle of the lake during an earthquake which subsequently opens an aquifer that has been closed since the dawn of man. Within two minutes, he is shredded and the last we see is a bony finger-pointing from a half-eaten hand struggling from the lake’s surface.
Well, that’s almost the last we see of him. The good part is, he stays dead. Richard Dreyfus beaten, shot, hung, stabbed or, in
this case, mostly eaten by a school of insatiable fish can never be a bad thing in a movie. At least he’s a good sport about it. In this movie, there are a lot of good sports. Eli Roth, Ving Rhames and Jerry O’Connell appear as little more than fodder for the hundreds of fish rolling through the waters of the fictional Lake Victoria, Arizona. At least the 3 of them get more than a few lines. Literally hundreds of people meet their gruesome end in this film, which has to be the highest visual body count I have ever seen. Production notes over 1000. I am pretty sure they got every one of them on film.
This film is by no means for everyone. It is truly horrifically graphic. This is not Aja’s first go around in the realm of graphic violence. Never before has he been this unhinged. Truth to tell, I have not much liked his earlier efforts: Haute Tension, The Hills Have Eyes (remake)
and Mirrors. His style is cruelty and lack of remorse. That doesn’t usually translate into “fun.” I do, however, have a certain amount of admiration for the unrestrained nature of this film. There is literally nothing here that they don’t try. And, strangely, it is quite fun if you don’t invest as much in characters as you do gore. I will not describe much of it, other than to say if you have the slightest bit of uneasiness at seeing violence, don’t see it. There is nothing here I can compare this to. It is more obscenely violent than all the Saw movies combined.
One thing that makes it bearable for me is Elisabeth Shue. I haven’t seen her in years, and she is still gorgeous as ever. She doesn’t do any more than Roy Scheider did in Jaws, considerably less, really. The important thing is she is here, looking good and smart as ever.
There is much originality in the graphic images presented in Piranha 3D, and that stands in direct contrast for the lack of originality in the script. It moves along, effortlessly, and none of the actors are straddled with an unnecessary amount of dialogue. Why get to know these actors if they are going to bait soon, anyway? The key for this type of film is go out with style. In this, Ving Rhames fares the best with his propeller wielding assault. Roth gets what’s coming to him, literally. O’Connell has a good amount of fun as a sleaze merchant who has his prized possession literally coughed up in the water, almost as an afterthought.
Other moments in the film that resonate is the scene where everyone literally clamors to get up onto the floating stage. The real tension of that scene is amazing given the carnage going on around the stage. Christopher Lloyd is fun as the crazy marine biologist, and it is nice to see the heroism of Adam Scott nurtured throughout the film, to its ironic result.
See this film if you have more testosterone than sense, and realize that while you probably won’t lose any of your innocence if you’ve chosen to watch it. Chances are, you wouldn’t have had that for some time.
(*** out of *****)