AUGUST 3, 2009
As it is Shark Week, I wanted to watch a film with sharks. Unfortunately, I got Sharks In Venice, which is about as much of a shark movie as Eraser is an alligator movie (or were they crocodiles? I forget). It’s more of a crappy ripoff/blend of Last Crusade and Cliffhanger, with Stephen Baldwin forced to help a bunch of bad guys find their treasure in the canals/tombs of Venice. Even the score is copied from another film (The Abyss, of all things). Worse, the best shark scenes are largely inconsequential; most of the time they are just another obstacle for the humans en route to treasure. Mafia Goons in Venice or Tricky Maze-Like Canals In Venice would have been just as, if not more, acceptable titles.
Another one could be Machine Guns In Venice, since more people die by gunfire than sharks in the film. The entire climax is all but completely shark-free, it’s just a big shootout between a bunch of faceless mafia goons and equally faceless SWAT guys. It’s not a bad shootout (there’s a cool overhead tracking shot of the entire scene), but I rented a movie called SHARKS In Venice, so I want to see some goddamn SHARKS. Finally, Baldwin and the main bad guy topple into the water, and a shark comes more or less out of nowhere, and since it’s a heroic shark, eats only the bad guy and leaves Baldwin be. Hilariously, the shark is then forgotten about; no attempt is made to kill it or at least herd it back to the ocean proper. Throughout the movie, it has occasionally eaten a tourist or attacked a boat, but I guess all is forgiven. Then again, maybe it died on its own - the final shot is of a canal with a shark fin breaching the surface, but the fin is stationary, which means the shark has stopped moving and is thus dead.
Speaking of the boat attack, even if there was only one shark scene in the entire film, you know that the only reason to set the damn thing in Venice is to have it attack/eat a gondola. So why does it take a full 50 minutes to get to this scene (in an 87 minute movie)? This should have been the opening scene. And many of the middle scenes. And the climax. In fact, this movie could be absolutely nothing but an endless series of scenes in which sharks eat gondolas, and it would be the better for it. Like anyone gives a shit about the treasure hunting nonsense.
There is one thing about the treasure story that got me thinking. Baldwin is offered a full 20 million dollars to help the bad guys find it, but he turns it down because of the danger (his dad died doing the same thing). I couldn’t help but wonder - how many movies would turn out differently if a noble guy was like “Holy shit, a lot of money to do what they will probably end up forcing me to do anyway? Done!”. Furthermore, would they pay up? Incidentally, I had just watched the film 12 Rounds, which is a Die Hard 3 ripoff, and was pondering a film where a bad guy attempts to force a good guy to aid him in his nefarious deeds, only to get the wrong guy. But the guy has nothing better to do that day so he helps the bad guy just for the hell of it, even though he has nothing at stake. I think it’d be pretty awesome.
Oh, and everyone speaks while they’re underwater, despite the fact that they have breathing apparatuses in their mouth. Another blunder on director Danny Lerner’s part that causes some confusion is that everyone looks the same with their scuba gear on; resulting in a scene in which it seems like Baldwin is getting attacked when it’s some other guy that you forgot was even in the scene (this actually happens twice in a row). That’s what happens when you film everything in frenetic rapid-fire edit closeup to try to hide the fact that the effects suck.
And Lerner should know better, since a quick look at his IMDb filmography reveals that this is like his tenth shark movie. In fact, pretty much all of his movies have one of the following words in the title: Shark, Force, Octopus, Seals (as in Navy or US), Strike, Operation... you get the idea. Then again, maybe all those other shark films have worn him out, and he’s looking to branch out a bit by blending his shark stuff with his action stuff. Either way, he’s not a very good director. He even botches traditional transitions: there’s a scene where Baldwin holds a map up, and we get a full screen shot of the map. This usually means that we’re about to fade to an overheard shot of the same location albeit in the real world, but he fades to a side view of some other place. Schmuck.
As complete junk goes, I’ve certainly seen worse. It’s rarely dull, and even though there aren’t nearly enough shark scenes, at least there are shootouts and clumsily staged hand to hand fights to enjoy in the meantime. And Baldwin is the worst action hero since Rob Schneider in Knock Off, which adds to the hilarity. But Goddammit, I’m not here for any of this stuff, I want sharks! And as a shark movie, it’s a failure. As a perfectly crappy piece of junk that you throw on while drinking, I place it somewhere between a lesser Seagal movie and Thomas Ian Griffith’s Die Hard ripoff Crackerjack.
And one final note, to First Look Studios - Turn down the fucking volume on your shitty logo! It’s always about 10 decibels higher than the film itself. So I turn down my receiver, and then I can’t hear the opening dialogue of your equally shitty movie.
What say you?