Deep Blue Sea (1999) directed by Renny Harlin
Doctor Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows) runs a research project searching for a cure for Alzheimer's Disease. Her dad spent years suffering from it so she is highly motivated to find a cure. Her work indicates that a protein in shark's brains may reverse the brain damage caused by Alzheimer's. She runs an off-shore research laboratory sponsored by a pharmaceutical company. One of the sharks escapes and attacks a pleasure boat. The lab's shark wrangler (Thomas Jane) manages to save the tourists but the news hits the papers, threatening to tank the value of the company. McAlester makes a desperate appeal to the company head (Samuel Jackson) who agrees to give them 48 hours to get results. They fly to the facility as most of the workers leave for the weekend. A skeleton crew remains behind as a tropical storm threatens.
In order to harvest more protein, the scientists have enlarged the brains of three of the sharks. The people manage to get one shark into the facility and take a sample. The sample works. The sedated shark suddenly bites the arm off one of the characters. The humans dump the shark back into the outdoor tanks and rush the victim to the top of the facility. They call in a medical evacuation. Unfortunately the storm is already hitting the station and the helicopter has trouble, eventually crashing into the facility. The remaining five or six people have to fight off the sharks and try to get out of the lab before it sinks or they get eaten. Just when the sharks start showing unusually intelligent behavior.
This film has a b-movie premise but makes the most out of it. It acknowledges its debt to Jaws--there's even a shark with a Louisiana license plate like in the 1975 classic. The movie both recognizes and plays with standard monster movie tropes. The black cook (LL Cool J) starts off as comic relief, at one point even admitting to himself, "Brothers never make it out of situations like this." He lasts much longer than viewers might expect. The misguided scientist McAlester used some unethical means to make the sharks' brains larger and she claims, "as a side effect, the sharks got smarter." That's not really a side effect which the other characters immediately acknowledge. McAlester is somewhat unlikeable--her big speech about her dad is at the beginning though in most films that would be used to make her sympathetic toward the end, an unexpected twist. She and the shark wrangler seem like their supposed to have some romantic tension but the actors don't have any chemistry together and the script is more interested in exciting shark action. Samuel Jackson's character gives a great speech about how they need to stick together and not turn on each other, which has a breathtaking finish, again playing with the b-movie expectations. The movie has enough familiarity and enough twists to be thoroughly enjoyable.
Highly recommended--this may be the greatest b-movie ever made.