Hilda van der Meulen
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Shark in Venice (2008)
31st May 09
Fat Bloke Vs Cartoon Shark
Long-time Israeli producer / director Danny Lerner’s credits include Shark Attack II , Shark Zone and Raging Sharks , so you know where to go if you want a low-rent, likeably useless cheapjack novelty shark flick. This reviewer is secretly hoping he drops some acid in the next few years and comes up with some wackier variations like Sharks In Pyjamas , or Sharks Working At B & Q or, preferably, Sharks That Look Like Louise Fletcher Wearing Ridiculous Hats .
For now, the novelty in Lerner’s latest is that the shark is, um, in Venice (we were hoping for Hull). You may assume a Jason Takes Manhattan style cost-cutting exercise, but they really did film in the great city, even if it still feels a lot like all those other Nu Image shot-in-Bulgaria/Budapest shark flicks. The peculiar range of accents and an array of alarmingly rubbish CG effects are par for the course for this kind of movie, though Shark In Venice boasts a higher unintentional laugh toll than most of its kind. Though some ridiculous hats would have helped.
As San Francisco’s pre-eminent oceanographic lecturer , Stephen Baldwin looks chubby in an unflattering wetsuit and fed up that his career has come to this. The only reassurance we can give him is that in 2014 the Z movie gods have decreed William Baldwin will star in Danny Lerner’s Octopus Vs Uber-Arachnid . If he’s still alive in 2014, John Rhys-Davies will co-star as Doctor Flanagan O’Reilly, whose well intentioned efforts to cure rectal itching by injecting spiders and octopi with K Y Jelly and cheap sun-cream lead to horror, death and an escalation of worldwide rectal itching.
Baldwin’s father disappears in Venice while on an illegal dive in restricted areas so he heads there to find out the truth. The truth, conveyed via some medieval expositional flashbacks that allow for swordplay and decapitation, involves the presence of King Solomon’s treasure in the bowels of the Venetian canal system. Anyone who gets near it (mostly those of a villainous nature) are munched on by the super-shark lurking in the same system. Baldwin travels with his girlfriend Vanessa Johansson, a medieval “expert” who looks like she would struggle to recall what happened at breakfast. Johansson is the less sexy, smaller-boobed, brunette sister of Scarlett and she boasts one facial expression. Sadly, it’s a blank one.
Shark attacks happen at such random intervals with such abruptness that you may feel like you just leaned on a newly fangled “Skip to Shark Scene” button on your DVD remote. Parts of the movie are accompanied by a bizarrely inappropriate, operatic score that sounds like it should be accompanying some kind of $200 million historical epic. As in every one of these movies, despite considerable evidence to the contrary, the local authorities remain stubbornly skeptical and possess a Murray Hamilton-inspired fixation on their tourist industry. In one of the movie’s highlights, Stephen Baldwin actually gets to say the line “This was no propeller!” in a Dramatic Close Up that in a fair world would earn Richard Dreyfuss royalties.
Thrown into the mix are a bunch of daft international bad guys who figure in a series of amusingly OTT fight scenes and give our heroes lots of time to escape their predicament in the fine tradition of Austin Powers . The bad guys are recognisable by their Sleazy Bad Guy Shaggy Hair, Evil Moustache and Sinister Beards. (Typical bad guy line : “Release my fucking treasure!”). They participate in an especially laughable and wildly silly climactic shoot-out set piece that has all the dramatic weight of a Police Squad episode and features what appear to be the same two extras descending from the roof on three separate occasions. You will laugh but it goes on so long you will also feel yourself age and some readers will die before it ends. This review is dedicated to their memory.
Most enjoyable is the oddball shark behaviour on display. The fast-cut attack scenes usually take the form of astonishingly mismatched stock footage, random, barely coherent gory inserts of sharks biting down on limbs and heads, and the expected piss-poor CGI shark shenanigans. There is one jaw-droppingly insane rewind able moment in which the shark appears to leap several feet out of the water to grab a drunk tourist on land, in a CG bur that’s even dafter than Samuel L Jackson’s fate in Deep Blue Sea (Later, a serene scene is similarly interrupted when the same fake-fish suddenly jumps on a gondola with all the grace of Vanessa Feltz diving into a pool full of blind orphans).
It’s all strangely compulsive and probably the best shark movie ever after a few joints. Stick around in any case for the marvelously corny wrap-up; all that’s missing is a freeze-frame of everyone smiling into the camera.
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