‘The Requin’ Review: It Takes an Awfully Long Time for Sharks to Attack Alicia Silverstone

More a survival-at-sea drama than a people-versus-sharks thriller, but satisfying all the same.

The Requin
Courtesy of Lionsgate

The first thing you need to know about “The Requin” is that its title refers to any shark of the Carcharhinidae family — although no one in this movie ever uses that term. The second thing you need to know is that no sharks, requin or otherwise, appear until nearly an hour into writer-director Le Van Kiet’s 89-minute film, which may cause some impatient viewers to suspect they have been targeted with a bait-and-switch scam (sorry, couldn’t resist), and react by repeatedly hitting the fast-forward button.

Last, and arguably most important: It may be more of a survival-at-sea drama than a people-versus-sharks thriller, but “The Requin” is largely satisfying as a popcorn distraction with a nifty gender-swapping approach to genre tropes and stereotypes. Kiet sustains a fair amount of suspense throughout, and once again demonstrates, as he did in his well-received 2019 Vietnamese martial-arts actioner “Furie,” that distressed damsels can be deadlier than the male. Including male sharks.

The extended setup gives lead players Alicia Silverstone and James Tupper ample time to generate rooting interest in protagonists Jaelyn and Kyle, a married couple coping with the wrenching emotional fallout from losing their newborn during a home-birthing attempt in a bathtub went horribly awry. We’re introduced to them as they begin a R&R vacation in Vietnam (played, in a bold stroke of casting, by Orlando, Fl.), where James has rented an expensive “floating villa” — a well-appointed cabin with a great oceanfront view but, as usually is the case in movies like this, sketchy (at best) wifi.

Fortunately, Jaelyn can phone her mom (Deirdre O’Connell) and sister (Jennifer Mudge) when she and Kyle visit a nearby town. But while they’re certainly happy to hear from her, Jaelyn’s family is more than a tad concerned about her mental state, to say nothing of the couple’s choice of a vacation spot. Jaelyn is so concentrated on the conversation, and understands so little Vietnamese, she fails to notice TV weather reports about an upcoming tropical storm.

As it turns out, it was Kyle’s idea, not hers, to visit Vietnam — evidently, one of many decisions he has made for them in the past, and continues to make after the dream vacation devolves into a dire situation. Still, when she isn’t freaked out by bad dreams and worse memories, Jaelyn tries her best to be a good sport, and actually enjoys snorkeling, paragliding and doing other touristy things. (It’s worth noting that Kiet scrupulously avoids any mention of the decades-ago unpleasantness involving U.S. troops in the country, though he does acknowledge a teen-age war hero who stood up to French colonialists back in the ’50s.)

Eventually, inevitably, that tropical storm kicks in to propel the plot. Jaelyn and Kyle wake up to find their “villa” is now more or less a raft, floating several miles from the shore. Kyle is immobilized with an injured and bloody leg, but even that doesn’t stop him from trying to make all the decisions — most of them wrong — until Jaelyn finally begins to stand up for herself. A good thing she does: After Kyle is further incapacitated, it’s up to Jaelyn to do all the heavy lifting, and frantic rowing, when requins finally appear to make nuisances of themselves.

Some of the dialogue in “The Requin” is painfully on the nose — “I could have been more patient with your PTSD!” — but a lot more sounds like what a long-married couple might say to each other, whether they’re reopening old wounds or joking to ease their fears. (“We’re, like, the unluckiest couple in the world!”) Don’t misunderstand: Kiet isn’t trying to pull off a “Scenes from a Marriage with Sharks” here. But Silverstone and Tupper persuasively convey a much wider range of emotions than are customarily unleashed in post-“Jaws” movies about finned predators and human prey.

At the same time, Silverstone is every bit as convincing while she wields everything from a large plank to an outboard motor to scatter the sharks. One advantage to seeing “The Requin” in a theater instead of on digital platforms: You’d get to share the hearty laughter when she utters a line that cannot be contextualized without spoiling the fun: “Not today!”

‘The Requin’ Review: It Takes an Awfully Long Time for Sharks to Attack Alicia Silverstone

Reviewed online, Jan. 28, 2022. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 89 MIN.

  • Production: A Lionsgate release of a Saban Films presentation of a Film Bridge Int'l production, in association with 828 Media Capital, Choice Films, Paper Street Pictures. Producers: Ellen Wander, Jordan Dykstra, Todd Lundbohm, Aaron B. Koontz, Ashleigh Snead, Cameron Burns. Executive producers: Joseph Lanius, Dan Tran, Peggy Yen, Francisco Cordero, Ricardo Coeto, Jeff Segal, Ron Horan, Al Nguyen, Mark Andrews, Christina Lundbohm.
  • Crew: Director, writer: Le Van Kiet. Camera: Matt S. Bell. Editor: Tommy Aagaard. Music: Jean-Paul Wall.
  • With: Alicia Silverstone, James Tupper, Deirdre O’Connell, Danny Chung, Jennifer Mudge.
  • Music By: Jean-Paul Wall