Under Paris (2024)

Rating: C+

Dir: Xavier Gens
Star: Bérénice Bejo, Nassim Lyes, Léa Léviant, Sandra Parfait

The premise of this is, dare I say it, in-Seine. Hohoho. We not only have an unusually large mako shark making its way from the Pacific to the English Channel, and up the River Seine to lurk about near Notre Dame. It also happens to be exactly the same shark which, three years previously, ate the entire dive party belonging to scientist Sophia (Bejo) when she was carrying out research in the Pacific. Really, it feels more like the fishy equivalent of the Grim Reaper in the Final Destination franchise, intent on tidying up loose ends like Sophia. Or perhaps the shark just hates the French, in which case I imagine it humming this song as it prowls beneath the bridges.

It starts off all rather environmentally preachy, with the suggestion the shark, named Lilith, was driven out of its natural habitat by pollution. So, of course, the very murky waters of the river running through Europe’s third-largest city makes perfect sense as a destination… The most irritating aspect are the idealist young environmentalists, led by Mika (Leviant) and Caro (Parfait), who could not be more obnoxiously misguided if they tried, doing things like actively sabotaging the authorities by turning off the locator device Sophia previously embedded in Lilith. They even deliver the line, “We believe that an animal’s life is worth as much as a human’s.” Just stop there. No, it isn’t. Being eaten alive is too good for them.

The plot is equally nonsensical, whether cribbing elements from Jaws, the Parisian mayor refusing to call of a triathlon event because of rumours, or going its own route. For even after a full dozen people are killed, the mayor is magically able to stop the slightest word leaking out. Paris is twinned with Pyongyang, apparently. If you can get past the eye-rolling all this triggers, veteran director Gens does have a fairly decent eye for the set pieces at the heart of the genre. The opening attack in the Pacific is well-staged, and there’s a messily savage sequence using the Paris catacombs, into which Lilith has broken. The environmentalists and river police are both there, and it’s a toss-up as to who is more ill-equipped.

If you were paying attention, you’ll have noticed I used the word “triathlon” above. Know how those start? With all the competitors doing a mile swim, and here, it’s not in the local piscine. Yep, the finale has Lilith getting a ticket to an all-you-can-eat buffet of frogs’ legs; it’s glorious, and surprisingly explosive. But as someone who has certainly seen their fair share of shitty shark movies, I was expecting rather more from Gens, who has produced some decent genre entries, such as Frontière(s) – and indeed from Netflix, especially given the clearly not insignificant budget on view, with solid technical elements. In particular, I was hoping not to find a plot with holes through which a unusually large mako shark could swim, without touching the sides.