About a half-hour into TBS Superstation's On Hostile Ground, one has a sinking feeling that this is a reworking of Jaws that's less exciting, far less scary and features less interesting characters.
The movie is about a giant sinkhole that threatens to swallow downtown New Orleans at the height of Mardi Gras.
After two sinkholes about 50 feet deep suddenly appear miles apart, geology consultant Matt Andrews, portrayed by John (Volcano) Corbett, and mayoral aide Allison Beauchamp, played by Jessica (Armageddon) Steen, worry about the implications.
But another mayoral aide, George Ryan (Peter Stebbings), resembles the bureaucrats in Jaws who put common sense second to greed (theirs being tied to the Fourth of July weekend business).
After all, Ryan-who secretly tears up photos of a third hot spot-tells them 2 million tourists are due to spend $1 billion in the "Big Easy." He even convinces Allison that her beau, Matt, is "gun-shy" due to a mining tragedy in his past.
After a slow, predictable hour has passed, Matt and Allison are at odds, and her niece is unwittingly riding a parade float into the danger zone.
Beneath the parade route, Matt suddenly finds an unstable 60-foot abyss and gets it on video. The mayor, once informed, assigns cops to evacuate the area, which turns the paraders into rioters. Meanwhile, Ryan tries to shift blame to Allison.
Matt suggests spraying poly-urethane foam into the chasm, which, after expanding, will fill up the cavern and solidify. The self-described "thriller's" finale lacks suspense, as Matt's plan goes awry and the foam spreads underground like lava while he seeks an escape route.
Actual footage of this year's Mardi Gras festivities was interspersed with scenes shot in Toronto at production designer Gavin Mitchell's set of a sinkhole engulfing a French Quarter street. But somehow, that set just doesn't look real.
Executive producer Orly Adelson chose Brian Ross to write the lackluster script and Mario Azzopardi to direct. The latter is a science-fiction specialist, but this project doesn't measure up to such past credits as Showtime's Stargate SG-1.
TBS' On Hostile Ground bows June 11 at 8 p.m., with repeats due June 14 and 24.
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