Water palava

18 * 88 mins * Friday 20 August 2010
Distributor: Entertainment
Director: Alexandre Aja
Elisabeth Shue, Kelly Brook, Steven R McQueen, Jerry O’Connell

A loose remake of Joe Dante’s 1978 Jaws-chaser, weaponised for modern cinema with low wit and excess boobage, Piranha 3D plays like an all-too-calculated guilty pleasure.

Spring break has arrived in Lake Victoria, summoning 10,000 horny teenagers. It’s like the last days of the Roman empire. With, like, beerz ‘n’ shit. Wet t-shirts glisten, babes bounce on trampolines and the 3D camera prowls like a clammy perv. Meanwhile, deep below the surface, a seismic shudder unleashes a deadly shoal of prehistoric fish, as hungry for flesh as the cameraman.

There’s a winking, knowingly hoary quality to the screenplay, not sharp enough for satire and too cynical to work as a homage. Richard Dreyfuss makes a shameful cash-grab cameo as what’s clearly intended to be his turn from Jaws, while Ving Rhames informs us “I’m getting too old for this”, a line too fossilised to even work as a cinematic in-joke.

Bloody feeding frenzies punctuate endless bouts of faux-porn. Kelly Brook performs an aquatic girl-on-girl ballet, naked but for blue flippers, like something out of a ’50s Nudie Cuties flick. When the final reel rampage occurs, it’s effectively staged – the razor-gnashered nasties go wild in the jock gene pool and there’s impressive, if gut-churning prosthetic work in the massacre’s aftermath – but there’s a hint of something meaner, more troubling, in the sight of a topless woman being sliced in two by a length of rigging.

Relying on gross-out and shock in place of smarts or suspense, it’s a film that reeks of talented people deliberately miring themselves in low-rent schlock. The lasting image is of a severed, half-digested todger, bobbing in the 3D murk – a fitting epitaph for this dreadful load of old cock.

Nick Setchfield