Dir. Danny Lerner, 2008
There are doubtless people in this world who, upon stumbling across the existence of a film titled Shark in Venice could simply smile wryly, shrug their shoulders and walk away. I am, regrettably, not one of those people. Before we go any further, I am aware that coming so soon after some of my recent posts, what follows may seem like I am recounting some strange fever dream experienced after eating too many anchovies late at night. I wish to assure you, this film is entirely real. Look, here's the poster and everything.
Admittedly, that looks like I could have knocked together in Photoshop in about twelve bored seconds, so does not really help my case. Let me just repeat: this is a real film. Real people spent substantial amounts of real time and real money making this film. Just hold on to that thought.
Shark in Venice opens with a team of divers in Venice's canals being attacked by a shark. Or rather, a team of divers in a swimming pool somewhere in Bulgaria going "Aargh", intercut choppily with stock footage of a shark swimming around the ocean somewhere. This horror is witnessed by a team of observers on a nearby boat, who helpfully remind us that we are supposed to be in Italy by uttering lines of dialogue like "Dio Mio! Grazie! Marco Polo!". (That is, almost unbelieveably, a direct quote. I spent the rest of the film waiting for someone to start shouting "Carbonara! Bambino! Gino Ginelli!!!").
We cut to San Francisco, where we meet nature's least-loved Baldwin, Steven Baldwin, cast in the not-entirely-suitable role of a university lecturer. A kindly dean informs Baldwin that his father has disappeared mysteriously while searching for a treasure hidden beneath Venice during the crusades by three knightly brothers. Hang on, what? No, he really did just say that. If the scenario sounds oddly familiar, that's because it is at this point that Shark In Venice boldly throws off expectations and turns out not, in fact, to be an incredibly low-rent rip-off of Jaws. No, it is actually an incredibly low-rent and frankly quite demented rip-off of Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. But with sharks.
Baldwin shuffles through the film doughy-faced and glassy-eyed, delivering his lines in a disconnected mumble that was possibly intended as a shot at 'brooding' but mostly just gives the almost-certainly-correct impression that he is on some really quite substantial medication. At one point about halfway through the film he actually comes close to emoting for a few seconds (well, he shouts a bit, anyway) and then - and I remind you yet again that I am not making this up - has to sit down, apparently exhausted. Despite his figure-hugging 'sexy' t-shirt, Baldwin largely fails to convince as an action hero. This is not least because of his peculiarly uncomfortable-looking walk, the unmistakeable sign of a man whose girdle is done up slightly too tight. Baldwin's character is accompanied to Venice by his fiancee, who is described as "an expert." (Long pause.) "In medieval literature." She fulfils the odd role of having heated conversations with all the other characters on Baldwin's behalf while he sits there staring into the middle distance. The curious result is that she seems less like a girlfriend and more like some kind of psychiatric care assistant.
The plot proceeds to go off the rails in the most fantastically bizarre and spectacular ways. The villain of the piece is a mafia boss who, it turns out (SPOILERS) unleashed a swarm of man-eating great white sharks into Venice's canals to prevent anyone finding the treasure, and then becomes increasingly frustrated as everyone he sends to retrieve the treasure is killed by man-eating great white sharks. He tries to strongarm Baldwin, kidnapping his girlfriend to force him into finding the treasure again. About halfway through the film he apparently decides this plan is not exciting enough, and sends a squad of uzi-wielding motorcycle ninjas to assassinate Baldwin for no clearly definable reason. I tried to put down in an ordered, logical way the villain's stated motivations, but only managed to give myself a tremendous tension headache. Often in recent years I have had the impression when watching a film that the screenplay has been generated by some kind of computer program, the producers having merely selected character names, setting and genre from a series of drop-down menus. This is the first time it has felt like that program has thrown some kind of fatal Logical Exception Error and crashed.
It takes a certain kind of chutzpah to make a film about killer sharks using only stock footage and occasional bursts of CGI so spectacularly bad that they are actually preceded by the screen becoming all grainy and pixelated like a YouTube clip watched over an old person's dodgy dial-up internet connection. But that kind of chutzpah is evidently to be found in abundance in Bulgaria, where the end credits reveal this film to have been produced, funded and directed. Somehow that seemed to explain a lot.
Buy Shark In Venice  on Amazon! If for some reason you think that is a good idea.
Still don't believe me? Look!