Sharks in Venice (2008)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Stephen Baldwin, Vanessa Johansson, Hilda Van Der Muelen, Giacomo Gonnella, Ivailo Geraskov, Atanas Shebrev
Directed by Danny Lerner
If there's one kind of movie Nu Image seems to love it would have to be killer shark movies. They got the ball rolling in 1999 with the forgettable Shark Attack. It still did well enough to bring about the inevitable Shark Attack 2 a year later. In 2002 the world would be graced with the must-be-seen-to-be-believed Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, truly the pinnacle of the modern DTV shark flick subgenre.
Knowing they could never top it, Nu Image dropped the "attack" and added a "zone" for 2003's Shark Zone, the one that featured a lead character who suffered from clinically diagnosed phobias of water, sharks, and being eaten alive yet was a shark biologist who lived in a beach house and worked for the harbor patrol. Just when it seemed like their shark flicks couldn't get any goofier they had sharks being driven to frenzy by a crashed underwater UFO in 2005's Raging Sharks (review). That same year they also gave us Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy (review), but that one doesn't count because that was a shark-man movie. Now here were are in 2008 and once again Nu Image is going back to their shark well. Given the increasingly outlandish set-ups I wouldn't be at all surprised if eventually Nu Image makes one about a man-eating shark lurking at the bottom of a well.
Nu Image presents Sharks in Venice, a motion picture that combines the absurd notion of a Great White shark prowling the polluted waters of the canals of Venice, Italy with the even more absurd notion that people want to watch movies starring Stephen Baldwin. Those two absurdities weren't absurd enough so they tossed in King Solomon's lost treasure hidden away beneath the Venice canals by unscrupulous knights following the Crusades. And if that wasn't enough, murderous Italian mobsters played by Bulgarians with phony Italian accents are also after the treasure. We are talking about a man-eating shark movie that culminates not with a man vs. shark showdown - that would make too much sense, but with a full-scale shootout between the Italian SWAT team and well-armed gangsters.
Now I'm not going to complain about the shark being brought to life almost entirely via nature footage of a real-life Great White shark since such cheapness has become a staple of these Nu Image shark flicks. I will, however, complain about how pathetic this makes the majority of the shark attacks: shark stock footage goes in for the kill, lots of close-up shaky cam and thrashing about followed by the water turning red. It's weak the first time; even weaker the eighth time. The few amusing kills there are, about all of the shark-related money shots (though not much money judging by the laughable computer cutout shark) can be seen in that trailer I posted in an article about the film a few weeks back. That trailer turned out to be the film's highlight reel.
I'm also going to complain about Stephen Baldwin. He's terrible, just terrible, single-handedly sucking a lot of enthusiasm out of the film. Aside from those very few occasions where he screams in anger, the guy sleepwalks through the movie looking and sounding like someone zoned out on that emotion-inhibiting drug from Equilibrium. Early in they dared get my hopes up that Baldwin was going to get the Samuel L. Jackson Deep Blue Sea treatment when I watched him get shredded by the shark only for him to wake up relatively unscathed - it was all a dream. I can dream too.
Stephen Baldwin, looking beefy in this tight grey top that makes him look like George Reeves on the set of the old "Superman" series, is a college professor who heads to Venice, Italy along with his fiancée (Vanessa Johansson, Scarlett's plain Jane sister) after getting word of his father's death. The Venetian police tell him his father got caught in a propeller blade while scuba diving in a restricted area of the canals. Baldwin knows this was no boating accident. The local authorities insist the very notion of a shark in Venice is preposterous. Baldwin states he wants to dive down there and see what his dad was looking for. The local authorities repeat that it is a restricted area, but since Baldwin asked politely...
Baldwin finds the treasure in an underwater cavern guarded by some Indiana Jones-on-a-budget traps. The man-eating shark that chewed up his father finds him too. He survives only to show no interest in killing the shark or claiming the treasure; he just wants to go home. A ruthless crimeboss after the treasure won't let him leave. When bribery doesn't work, attempted murder, shootouts, foot chases, kidnapping, and blackmail ensue.
That’ll lead to a particularly hilarious sequence in which Baldwin defeats a chainsaw-wielding henchman with some wooden chair fu. Yeah, a wooden chair manages to overpower a chainsaw. Leatherface would weep. Or how about all these divers somehow being able to communicate with others via radio even as they're shown with oxygen rebreathers in their mouths that you'd think would make talking kind of impossible?
Sporadic silliness aside, Sharks in Venice is rather - dare I say - routine. The problem is it’s more of a routine treasure-hunting thriller than a routine nature gone amok movie. A few random civilians do get devoured along the way but the shark's primary function is to eat divers seeking the underwater entrance to the treasure cavern. In that sense, Nu Image is recycling Shark Zone; it also had a lead actor whose diver dad fell prey to a shark being coerced by gangsters to take them to a sunken treasure site in shark infested waters. That film, also directed by Danny Lerner, was less lethargic and delivered more of the shark-on-human action we're tuning in for. This romp needed more chomp. I'd rather a film be all wet than too dry. Sharks in Venice greatly lacks the truly inspired wackiness of Shark Attack 3: Megalodon (especially "the line") or even the over-the-top conceits of Raging Sharks. To think what the late Bruno Mattei could have done with this scenario.
They even missed the most obvious joke at the end. The final shot of the film is a wide angle shot of Venice with a shark fin protruding from the water. Given the film's European setting and what we're seeing in this shot that is the very last scene of the movie, the word "FIN" should have appeared on screen before fading to black. It doesn't. Sharks in Venice just isn't that creative.
2 1/2 out of 5
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