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October 2010

Mega Piranha

cast: Paul Logan, Tiffany, Barry Williams, David Labiosa, and Jude Gerard Prest

writer and director: Eric Forsberg

90 minutes (15) 2009
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Metrodome DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 3/10
review by Matthew S. Dent

Mega Piranha

Mega Piranha is the latest 'mockbuster' from low-budget studio The Asylum, strategically designed to play off the higher budget Piranha 3D. The Asylum previously made Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, and it's clearly intended to be in the same vein. Whether it will strike the same general appeal that Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, however, is something I sincerely doubt.

Mega Piranha opens with a young Venezuelan couple going swimming in a particularly suspicious looking river. You can probably guess what happens next. Cue another few piranha attacks, and gruff special agent Fitch (Paul Logan), apparently from the 'plot convenience agency', shows up to investigate what's going on.

After figuring out that genetically modified super piranhas are behind it all, and will escape and attack Florida, he teams up with the scientists responsible for creating them (including former pop starlet Tiffany, demonstrating an embarrassing lack of acting talent, as well as contributing a theme song), in a bid to stop them. After avoiding the mad Venezuelan army colonel (David Labiosa), they face off against the piranhas in a madcap battle to save the east coast.

Or at least, that's what happens as far as I could tell. The whole thing has a frenetic, high-octane feel to it. With characters introduced with a freeze frame and caption proclaiming who they are, it starts off with everyone rushing around like headless chickens. And it carries on from there really, with dramatic music the whole way through, and CSI-style panoramic flyby shots of Venezuelan jungle, or Florida city-scapes separating dramatic scene from dramatic scene. The strange result of this caffeine-wired filmmaking is that it makes a 90-minute film feel too long by half.

As a science film, the plot is complete tosh. No real explanation is given for why anyone would want to breed monstrous piranhas, and whilst at the beginning the film attempts to give a plausible explanation for how they exist and can do the incredible things they do (which pretty much just means chucking around the term 'genetically modified', and labelling some of the characters scientists), that's well and truly abandoned by the end, where it has metamorphosed into a truly bizarre action film.

In particular, the scene when Rambo-wannabe Paul Logan's character lies on his back, kicking piranhas away like so many toothy footballs, just seemed to have transcended the bounds of credible story, as well as the limits of cheap CGI. This is followed by the bat-shit crazy final act, which sees the now-giant piranhas survive a nuclear explosion, destroy (somehow) a nuclear sub, and then be defeated by a bunch of gruff special forces soldiers in scuba suits.

Actually, that's not entirely accurate. The film itself never really explains how the piranhas are defeated. The apparent lead piranha gets torn apart by its brothers, and then the film draws to a close with a pointless and entirely random romance scene.

Maybe I'm being a little harsh towards it; I know it isn't supposed to be cinematic gold, but really the ending was just a mess. It made no sense, and pushed the concept of the ridiculous too far for my liking. Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus was a fun, daft romp of cheesiness. Comparatively, Mega Piranha was a frenetic mess, dissolving into an entirely incredible and unsatisfying ending.

The special features attached include a behind the scenes documentary, and a bloopers reel. The behind the scenes documentary has the potential to be an interesting look at the making process, and does include some revelatory nuggets such as the fact that the bikini-clad girls at the beginning are actually Belizean prostitutes, and that testosterone-mountain Paul Logan is afraid of sharks. But really, it just feels like ten minutes of grandstanding and the director, writers, cast and crew patting themselves on the back. As for the bloopers, there's nothing special to be seen. It's just the usual actors fluffing lines and goofing off on camera.

If you're looking for a film to repeat the balance of daftness and entertainment of Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, then I'm afraid you're likely to be disappointed. Mega Piranha tries very hard to live up to its older brother, but lacks proper pacing, as well as any semblance of believability. Still, I suppose it's a good enough watch, if you're just looking for something to pass the time, or something to laugh at, rather than with.



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