More in the tradition of the silly Snakes on a Plane than the genuinely thrilling Jaws, Under Paris is the sort of trash ‘content’ that Netflix seems to produce only for women; this time, however, it’s aimed squarely at teenage boys. Not that women can’t appreciate the lurid thrills of this movie, but they (and everybody else on God’s green earth) would be better off tuning into Emily in Paris instead. You could almost picture Emily, peacefully snacking on a croissant in the corner of the frame, while the Oscar-nominated Bérénice Bejo goes on a race against time to neutralize a rogue shark that has been sighted swimming, you guessed it, under Paris.

Bejo plays Sophia, a marine biologist who, in the movie’s prologue, finds herself in over her head when she encounters a murderous shark that appears to be growing at a magically rapid rate. The shark attacks Sophia and her crew, which includes her husband, and in a cartoonishly grisly sequence that barely qualifies as live-action, they all perish. But Sophia survives to grieve another day. So, when the same shark washes up on the banks of the Seine three years later, Sophia must put personal grudges aside — because how stupid would that be? — and ensure that the shark is returned to the sea.

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under paris A still from Under Paris. (Photo: Netflix)

She must also swim against the tide and clear the river before an upcoming triathlon that the local mayor absolutely refuses to postpone until the shark is removed. If this is a statement on contemporary French politics, then director Xavier Gens is due a tip of the beret. Under Paris is very much a working class hero movie. Sophia is joined by members of the local police, and also a group of environmentalists who’ve been tracking the shark’s movements for a while, and were the first to bring it to Sophia’s notice. They call themselves the Save the Seas organization – a basic enough name – but they operate out of a secret hide-out fit for the Knights Templar.

Speaking of the Knights, the movie chooses to introduce a plot twist so bonkers in its third act that it would be a crime not to give you a head’s up. Let’s just say that immaculate conception is involved. And this is merely a teaser for the utterly ludicrous finale, which not only sets up a sequel, but teases that it would be of an entirely different genre altogether. Honestly, Netflix could crank out five of these movies in the next five years, and you’d be none the wiser.

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under paris A still from Under Paris. (Photo: Netflix)

This one probably didn’t cost all that much to make. Sure, they filmed a bunch of it on location, which is always admirable these days, but a significant portion of Under Paris — especially a few key scenes at the beginning and the end — are indistinguishable from a cartoon. Granted, there’s a lot of bloodshed — Under Paris is, after all, directed by the man who gave us the New French Extremity classic Frontier(s) — but because the CGI is so sloppy, it’s hard to take any of the carnage seriously. A part of you wonders how much better this movie would have been if even a single character in it had the savvy to wink at the camera. But Gens and his team of writers play it dead serious, even in the film’s centerpiece action sequence, which is set in the city’s famous catacombs.

Under Paris isn’t as daffy as those Sharknado flicks, nor is the filmmaking in it as slick as it was in The Shallows, which you’d likely remember as ‘That Blake Lively Shark Movie’. But it’s obvious that Gens isn’t going to be the first one to laugh at his own film, and if we’re being honest, it really doesn’t seem like he cares about what anybody else things about it either. The undercurrent of eco-awareness makes Under Paris marginally more interesting than it has any right to be, as does its frankly ridiculous final twist, which suggests that we were just dipping our feet in the kiddie pool this whole time.

Under Paris
Director – Xavier Gens
Cast – Bérénice Bejo, Nassim Lyes, Léa Léviant, Anaïs Parello
Rating – 2/5