RogerBW's Blog

Shark in Venice 07 August 2018

2008 thriller film, dir. Danny Lerner, Stephen Baldwin, Vanessa Johansson: IMDb / allmovie. A shark is killing divers in Venice, but we can't let the word get out or the tourists will be scared off. US vt Sharks in Venice.

The Jaws riffs are obvious – this is a Nu Image production, and they make a new killer shark film every year or two – but so also are the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade riffs. Our hero is pulled out of the college lecture he's giving to be informed that his father's gone missing while diving illegally, and of course he goes to Venice to look for him (he never finds him). Unfortunately our hero is played by Stephen Baldwin, whose tiny eyes and permanently smug expression fail to engender any sort of sympathy as he goes up against obstructive Venetian policemen. On his first dive, he casually locates the "Medicci" [sic] treasure that everyone's looking for; he appears to get his leg bitten off by the shark, but when he wakes up in hospital it seems to be back where it was and nobody mentions it again. His fiancée ("she's an expert in the mediæval period… she's very smart"), played by Vanessa "no, Scarlett is my little sister" Johansson, wanders along in his wake, trying to look as if she's got something to do, until she is inevitably kidnapped by the villain.

The shark attacks are achieved by a mixture of stock footage, shaky cam and red filters – and an occasional bit of digital compositing when the shark leaps out of the water to eat a hapless Venetian. So you're not getting anything like convincing gore. To distract you from this, there are various pursuits and shoot-outs with the villain's henchmen (including some on motorbikes, so practical in Venice), which keep moving through the same sets shot from slightly different angles with the extras rearranged. (The film was made in Bulgaria, where extras are cheap, but not so cheap that we can have convincing crowd scenes.) When one henchman picks up a chainsaw, our hero fights him off with… a wooden chair. Uh-huh.

It eventually turns out that the villain has deliberately been releasing the sharks to keep people away from the treasure… even though the main thing they end up eating is his own henchmen as they look for the treasure. The climactic scene is not, for the most part, a shark fight, but an assault by the Venetian police on the villain's lair – complete with gratuitously-repeated fast-roping.

Really the only good thing here is Hilda van der Meulen as one of the Venetian police (and she didn't get another acting job for eight years after this). It's complete rubbish, and great fun. Trailer here.

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  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 09:42am on 07 August 2018

    I'm still boggling at the idea of diving in Venice. Anyone that has actually been to Venice would never propose that. You can't see a bloody thing it's all so murky, it's about as much fun as diving in the Thames in London. What they do in Venice is put sheet piling in and drain a section, sometimes just a metre off the width of a canal to rebuild a wall for example. Most of the canals are surprisingly shallow.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 09:48am on 07 August 2018

    I've had dives off Plymouth where the water was about as clear as taramasalata and of a worryingly similar consistency.

    But of course the diving is vital. If they just excavated with pilings, nobody would get eaten by the shark.

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