Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Sharks in Venice
Sharks in Venice
“We don’t have sharks in Venice.”
I don’t know what it is about fish movies, but they seem to be much harder than you would think, or at least they must be considering the relatively low hit rate.
Sharks in Venice has possibly the most awesome non-Troma title that I’ve seen in a long time. It just oozes possibilities. The idea of hungry sharks running rampage in a city famous for singing Italian sleaze merchants on gondolas has so much potential.
I really feel let down by this. It should have been so simple: Venice is a canal city, so millions of people are trapped on the water all the time, multiple sharks should, therefore, be devastating. Then I even saw the incredible DVD cover, which just confirms that this film is going to be 95% big angry fish action.
Yet it isn’t. It’s a crushing disappointment. I have to throw my hands up and ask how, when you’ve a scenario that’s as clearly gold as this, one goes about missing the point by so far.
The problem I’ve got, and bear with me, because I actually watched it a bit ago and am operating off memory, is that it’s just bizarre, and not in a good way. They seem to have picked up every idea they could and thrown it at the wall hoping some of it would stick. This is not necessarily a bad way to go about making a good schlock movie, but it is completely inappropriate when the main monster is a big hungry fish. Even Frankenfish understood this.
To explain why, I’m going to have to go into some detail with the plot so from this point on please beware of massive spoilers. As if you care.
The film opens with a shark attack. Excellent, this is how to begin a big fish movie. Don’t fuck around establishing anything, just have someone in diving clobber being eaten. Unfortunately the guy getting chomped has been talking about the Medici tomb. I ignored this, assuming that it was just the premise to get them into the water, which was a terrible mistake.
It then cuts to the boat, where a slickly dressed cod-Italian (remember The Cage and his movable hairpiece with his “I like-a alotta de pasta” accent in turdfest Captain Correli’s Mandolin?) arguing with some guy in front of a monitor. Alarm bells should start ringing now, but if that isn’t enough it then cuts to Stephen Baldwin playing the Indiana Jones of the sub-aquatic world lecturing a class of douchebags on the dangers of diving. Leaving aside the fact that Baldwin is clearly someone that if asked whether or not he would choose between eating a Big Mac or going on a run, he would be unable to answer because his mouth would be full, he just doesn’t look or sound the part.
His “hot” girlfriend turns up, and some other guys telling him that his father has gone missing on expedition in Venice and seeing as a coastal town in Italy lacks divers he is the only person that can come and find out what happened.
HUZZAH! That’s a great reason to be tooling around in the water- find your dad’s entrails and then try to put him together like a giant jigsaw puzzle.
Nevertheless, minging girlfriend persuades our heroic doofus that he has to go to Italy, because it will give him closure and she’s always wanted to go. As if there was a moment’s doubt that he’d be squeezing his tubby frame into a wetsuit; an operation I imagine to be akin to trying to put toothpaste back in the tube.
Cut to Venice (thank fuck), and the two fat Americans are collected from the airport (bet they travelled in freight) by a suspiciously hot female cop. Hmmm, this cannot be right, any alarm bells going before this are now full-blown apocalypse sirens. They talk some bollocks about something or other, before he gets a ride to his dad’s place, which has been trashed. It turns out, after all, that his dad was searching for the Medici loot and, glory be, it appears he has found it. Unfortunately, the only person in the world capable of retrieving said loot is the salad dodger from the other side of the pond (despite the fact that the fat bastard probably weighs more than a shark).
Sure enough, lardass suits up and goes down in the water with a buddy. Queue shark attack, which, hilariously, he is fast and agile enough to escape. His escape route takes him into the hidden catacombs beneath Venice and the resting place of all the Medici gold. Chubby recognises that he can’t stay here, so decides to risk the sharks and return to the boat, something that proves to be inexplicably easy. He is a bit fucked up, requiring a stay in hospital (I don’t see you eating that food, Jabba), but apparently being savaged by a shark only merits an overnight stay.
I was starting to wonder about these sharks. They’re not up to much, what with not being able to catch a human cheeseburger. I expect that Jaws would have beaten them like Ike beat Tina, were they to meet.
What comes next is where the film really falls off the rails as both a big fish movie and a piece of cinema in general. Chubby (I would look up the character’s real name, but frankly cannot be bothered), angrily confronts the Police. A stereotype Eurotrash police Sergeant gives our portly hero a bollocking. Next up, for some reason, fatso goes to dinner with the slick fool from earlier on, who, it turns out (bet you didn’t see this coming), is actually a mafia don desperate to get his hands on the Medici booty. Allegedly, cocaine dealing just doesn’t have the same return as ridiculously elaborate plots to get medieval gold.
To summarise the rest, because I’m losing the will to live- angry mobster kidnaps girlfriend, chubby goes in water again to find hoard. Hot cop is actually working for the mafia, as are the sharks. Baldwin escapes, kills everyone and saves the day. Huzzah, give the man a lifetime supply of donuts.
That should give a good indication of what is wrong with this film. The formula is simple: take big fish, put in water, let it kill a few random people, put morons in water, morons have to escape water with minimum of chomping, morons decide to go back in water to kill fish, and morons kill fish. Even Jaws did it like this. What you don’t do is make up some third rate Indiana Jones bollocks and tack a shark story on to it. There isn’t any good reason for the sharks to be in the film at all. When the mafia scumbag reveals that (as if you couldn’t see it coming) that the sharks were his to prevent people stumbling across the treasure (in which case, asshat, why set them on people you’ve sent to retrieve the plunder?), it is both irritating and predictable. Furthermore, Fat Baldwin doesn’t win the day through feeding them to the sharks, rather he wins 2 shoot outs (how they miss something that size is beyond me), before a strange, unbelievable and annoying tacked on happy ending- would you forgive/ exonerate the bent cop that handed your girlfriend over to the Mafia? I wouldn’t, but that’s just me. Maybe his blood sugar had crashed with all the unexpected exercise.
The acting is also subpar, the whole film is, frankly, dull and confusing, and the mess is a waste of a great concept: Sharks in Venice. The sharks themselves are OK, if a bit blurry and clearly left over footage from something else, but it doesn’t matter seeing as you could get through the whole film without seeing them. The shark attacks themselves are, as a rule hopelessly confusing, and the continuity in them is shot to hell. The error count in most of these films is ridiculous, but this one takes the prize. Check out the bridge killing, for example, as there are about 5 different errors in a 30 second bit of film.
There’s no gratuitous nudity either. None. How disappointing.
So what’s good about this film? Surprisingly, it isn’t a complete loss- the early scene where pops gets shark-ed is well executed and highly amusing. There are plenty of random deaths (that I didn’t add to the summary) that pop out of nowhere, and are usually well handled, especially the one with the disastrous date on the bridge.
Acting-wise I want to single out one actress for vilification: step forward Vanessa Johansson. I feel for this woman, I really do. It must be fucking hard having a hugely successful and attractive sister, but there really is no excuse for this. I expect to see fat Baldwin sleepwalking through a film, but she actually manages to make both Stephen and Scarlett look good. How? To add a caveat, her giving lines like she’s reading the phone book is hugely entertaining, and if you’re female or know any women she provides the reason for watching the film. My wife thoroughly enjoyed every moment she was on screen. Schadenfreude doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Overall, would I recommend it? Maybe, as it is not all bad. I did chuckle at the sight of lardass in a wetsuit- even if I pity the wardrobe girls that had to get him out. I wonder how they did it, probably with a tin opener. There is some fun to be had from it- if you fancy a low rent mafia movie. However, if you’re expecting it to be a big fish eats people movie then avoid like Baldwin avoids tofu.
Sharks in Venice is the touchstone for less actually being more- if you took out all the Tomb Raider bollocks and had more shark then it would have been improved immeasurably. The lesson to be learnt from this is an old one: never judge a book by its cover. Sadly, being a tool, this is something I clearly have failed to learn.