Even stealing from ‘Jaws’ can’t save ‘The Meg’

By Chic DiCiccio

Jason Statham (right) and Bingbing Li in “The Meg.” Photos courtesy of Apelles Entertainment

There is a one-minute span in “The Meg” that is a shot-for-shot recreation (Ripoff? Tribute?) of a sequence on Quint’s boat in “Jaws.” It’s easily the best part of the entire movie. The other 112 minutes are crammed full of plot, horrendous dialogue delivered by stiff actors, shoddy CGI, and about 45 seconds of Jason Statham’s abs.

“The Meg” teeters between so bad that it’s good and, well, just bad. It leans more towards flat out bad because the plot mechanisms actually seem like they want to be taken seriously. Sadly, it will never compare to the gold standard of “genius” killer shark movies, “Deep Blue Sea,” if only because of the lack of LL Cool J theme songs.

Statham plays Jonas, a rescue diver who is a mix of Jason Statham and Captain Ahab. He’s haunted by a rescue mission gone bad in which his team was attacked by a giant undersea monster and nobody believes his story. This takes Jonas to Thailand where he spends his days drinking and striving for the perfect five o’clock shadow.

Jonas’ old buddy Mac (Cliff Curtis) recruits him after a team from his underwater research facility is attacked by the same giant shark. While rescuing them, one of the tiny submarines breaks a layer of cold water that has prevented the Megalodon from swimming out into the Pacific Ocean. Yes, it is that insane and about five minutes of scientific gibberish are used to attempt to explain all of it.

Don’t worry, “The Meg” has a bunch of peripheral characters that will guarantee a win on your Stereotypical Action Movie Roles bingo card. Rainn Wilson is actually pretty decent as a slimy billionaire that’s funding the entire research operation, but you know exactly what’s going to happen to him. Wilson has been searching for a decent post-Dwight role ever since “The Office” ended and he almost finds it here, albeit in a truly stupid movie.

Bingbing Li plays a brilliant scientist whose tough, smart exterior falls to mush simply at the sight of a shirtless Statham. Curtis, a normally reliable actor, had to be looking around wondering just how he got there. Ruby Rose was much better portraying a mute in “John Wick 2” as she’s truly a terrible actress. It’s not an understatement to say that every single actor is awful in this thing.

What if that’s what director Jon Turteltaub wanted? Perhaps he took one look at this script and realized that his only hope was to go full gonzo with it. Considering he’s the guy behind the camera for the “National Treasure” movies, probably not.

He definitely is a student of the “Jaws” franchise. There’s even some theft from “Jaws 3,” which means Turteltaub is the first director to ever crib from that movie. So that’s something.

Let’s talk about Jason Statham. There are varying levels of Statham. Unfortunately, “The Meg” doesn’t really top out on Statham. Maximum Statham has only been achieved in the “Crank” movies, but he does fight a 70-foot-long shark so it’s safe to say “The Meg” is at Full Strength Statham.

If there was Extra Statham, “The Meg” could have become a true guilty pleasure. If Statham had delivered a spinning heel kick to the giant shark, then this movie really would have had something. Alas, it’s just a by the numbers B-movie that would have been better served if it fully embraced the ridiculous premise.