‘Fin’ Review: Eli Roth Wants to Save the Sharks

Eli Roth really, really loves sharks. That’s the newest information available in his first feature documentary, “Fin,” a screed against shark fishing that borrows its most galling stats and images primarily from other places and fills in the gaps with footage of Roth being upset.

There is little here that was not already tackled in Rob Stewart’s 2007 documentary “Sharkwater,” nor in the more recent, less artful “Seaspiracy.” Though where Stewart painstakingly explained the beauty, intelligence and importance of sharks, Roth would rather that we love these animals simply because he does. This presents a challenge for anyone prone to find Roth, the director of exploitative horror films like “Hostel” and “The Green Inferno,” unsympathetic.

The fishing practices shown in “Fin” are harming our oceans, to be sure, but Roth seems more comfortable painting East Asian people as savages for eating shark fin soup than he does explaining marine biology. (He spends a good half of this documentary doing the former, and very little time on the latter.) In one scene, as he sits down to try the delicacy, he compares what he is about to do with his own film, the cannibal horror movie “The Green Inferno,” in which a cartoonish Amazonian tribe butchers a group of American college students.

Roth stands in for the outraged viewer for the duration of “Fin,” his indignation apparent as he repeatedly condemns the shark fishing he witnesses as crazy and pointless. Roth calls a shark clubbing the worst thing he’s ever seen. He passionately pushes for the maternal rights of a felled pregnant shark. He snidely condemns women who wear cosmetics, which can be made with shark liver oil. These words — coming from a director who helped coin “torture porn,” and whose fiction work consistently and degradingly compares makeup-caked bombshells to animals — feel disingenuous at best.

There are passionate, knowledgeable experts at the margins of this film: ecologists, activists and divers. Why Roth had to be its focal point is anybody’s guess.

Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 28 minutes. Watch on Discovery+.

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