Nu Image Films. Director: Danny Lerner.
Creature Feature Bleachers Award: Coolest Concept, Worst Execution of Coolest Concept.
Forgive my ungrammatical exuberance, but sharks in Venice sounds like the awesomest idea ever for a sharksploitation film! The very streets are infested with sharks— could there be anything cooler or more terrifying??? Yet somehow “Shark in Venice” falls short of its great potential. Writer Les Weldon (of “Raging Sharks” fame) presents us with a Mafia-heavy adventure film that fails to capitalize on the true terror that would ensue if sharks prowled the streets. Perhaps I expected too much from the concept, or perhaps 6 straight months of this stuff have raised my standards. In either case, I’d say that “Shark in Venice” falls solidly in the “meh” category of sharksploitation films.
Archaeologist David Franks (a chunky, doughy Stephen Baldwin) heads to Venice with his wife Laura (Vanessa Johansson) to investigate the suspicious death of his father. Franks soon discovers that his dad was trailing a treasure brought to Venice by Crusaders and later hidden by the Medici. Franks also realizes that the sharks on land are just as dangerous as the ones in the canals! Mafia head Vito Clemenza (Giacomo Gonnella) will stop at nothing in his quest for the treasure, and Franks soon finds himself fighting for everything he loves. Can he escape with the girl, the treasure, and his life?
Like “Shark!“, “Shark in Venice” plays up the adventure aspect, trying to get your heart racing with excitement instead of the fear that its horror film cousins seek to impart. In many ways, the film resembles the “Indiana Jones” and “National Treasure” films, except not in the sense that it is exhilarating, entertaining, well-written, or a good movie. Still, there is something to be said for a sharksploitation film that manages to incorporate the Crusades, the Medicis, and the Mafia in a jumbled mess of incomprehensible garbage.
On the other hand, “Shark in Venice” does teach us a few lessons about ethnic identity and film making. The movie was filmed almost entirely in Bulgaria, and most of the cast and crew is Bulgarian.
According to Wikipedia, the director even wanted to title the film “Shark in Bulgaria,” but “Shark in Venice” was decided to have a better “flow.” This brings us to lesson one: Italy sells better than Bulgaria. Personally, I think a film about sharks in Bulgaria would have been just as cool, and probably more educational, since many moviegoers don’t know all that much about Bulgaria. As far as I’m aware, no sharksploitation films have been set in Bulgaria yet, making it prime material for a sequel!
Lesson two: any adventure film set in Italy must star the Mafia.
It’s highly possible that “Shark in Venice” will damage your brain so severely that you lapse into a vegetative state, but on the off-chance that you remember anything about this film in 20 years, it will be the image of Stephen Baldwin’s ample bosoms straining towards the heavens as he morosely lugs his chunky body away from mafia pursuers. The Bulgarian costumers evidently took their revenge about the Bulgaria/Venice slight by outfitting Baldwin in a multitude of blubber-tight shirts.
If you don’t gouge your eyes out during the course of the film, you’ll realize that the titular sharks are, in fact, magical. In a small vignette, a drunken man and woman quarrel near the water’s edge. A shark attacks, swallowing the man. When the water clears, the woman has also inexplicably disappeared!
If, for some unknown reason, you like the trailer, you’ll probably like the movie:
“Shark in Venice” is available on Amazon.