Credit: Netflix
by Matt Lynch Featured Film Streaming Scene

Under Paris — Xavier Gens

June 6, 2024

A good animal attack movie doesn’t need to overstuff its checklist. Basically, all the film needs to do is trap a bunch of folks in a place with a killer beast and watch as they get picked off one by one for plus or minus 80 minutes — and make sure to add a liberal helping of gore. Where trouble comes is when maybe the filmmakers feel a little big for their britches and want their fun little bauble to act like a real movie and be taken seriously. Such is the case with the miserable Under Paris, wherein French trash captain Xavier Gens fully squanders his premise of a hungry mako shark on the loose in the Seine.

Bérénice Bejo stars as Sophia, a marine biologist studying, of course, sharks. As the film opens, she and a couple other researchers are investigating the “seventh continent,” a massive floating pile of garbage in the middle of the ocean. There she discovers that her subject, Lilith the Mako Shark, has grown unusually large and, turns out, unusually hungry. After a violent attack in which she’s dragged deep underwater by the big girl, we flash forward three years. When some old unexploded WWII ordnance is found in the river Seine, it’s also discovered that Lilith has somehow made her way to Paris. In a hilarious homage to Jaws, the mayor (Aurélia Petit) wants to keep the whole thing quiet because of a major swimming event due to take place in the river in a few days time. Gens seemed to miss the lesson: it’s never a good idea to remind the viewer of a much better movie they could be watching instead, and especially not when that movie is one of the best ever made.

Anyway, outside of that ill-advised bit reference, the rest sounds like good enough fun on paper. The problem, then, is that Under Paris is infuriatingly dull. Padded to within an inch of its life with characters standing around arguing about what they should be doing, viewers are left to wait a stultifying near-hour for the first big shark scene. It takes place in the flooded catacombs and mostly consists of a bunch of people flailing around in the water and trying to run away from the shark, but inevitably slipping and falling into the bloody sewers. There’s bafflingly little actual shark stuff to be found here, and what you do get is largely sub-standard CGI — it sincerely can’t be stressed enough just how diabolically boring Under Paris is. On top of that, its attempts to have something to say about climate change and inept bureaucracy are not only laughable but unnecessary, almost all of the shark victims are basically NPCs, and the film clocks a punishing hour and 45 minutes. Being that the film found its way to U.S. release via Netflix streaming rather than a genre film theatrical distributor, you might be forgiven in assuming that this is all actually by design, since the streamer seems to have the market cornered in “content” that you don’t have to pay attention to at all until something loud happens. If that’s the case with Under Paris, mission accomplished.

DIRECTOR: Xavier Gens;  CAST: Bérénice Bejo, Nassim Lyes, Léa Léviant, Anaïs Parello;  DISTRIBUTOR: Netflix;  STREAMINGJune 5;  RUNTIME: 1 h. 41 min.