Friday, 8 April 2011

SHARK ATTACK (1999) Casper Van Dien

Align CentreKicking off 'Shark Week' is the first NU IMAGE foray into fishy waters. After many abortive attempts at watching this movie over the years, I've fought off sleep, (house-cleaning, bill-paying and other more 'fun' activities) and finally sat through it all the way for the first time, to review it today. Extra bricks for my kingdom in DVD heaven...I'm sure?

Marc DeSantis, a marine biologist is snooping around the waters of Port Amanzi, South Africa at night-time. He checks his high-tech underwater equipment and returns to his boat to reports his findings on his laptop. He then attempts to email his research to a certain 'Steven McKray'...but due to his 'late 90's ' Internet speed (probably still faster than UK services now) he never gets to send the message, as he is knocked unconscious by goon#1 and goon#2 (#2 being a dead ringer for Flavor Flav) who promptly slash his arm, and throw him into the midnight sea...and thus into the 'Business End' of a passing Tiger Shark....Ouch!!

(Napster was never THIS reliable?)

Fellow biologist Steven McKray (the lamentable Casper Van Dien) eventually receives this 'Half email' (I didn't think that was possible...and the information is already on the screen before Steven double-clicks the header anyhow?) along with several gruesome pictures detailing a large number of recent shark attacks in Port Amanzi (to which he replies "HOLY COW".....Sorry McKray, wrong species) McKray heads to South Africa (were quite frankly it's cheaper to film) and find out about the missing e-mail info...although he could just try using a slightly older form of technology (i.e, a phone) don't ask me, I just review these movies?

("....and to think, I was once in PENITENTIARY II?")

Upon arriving at Port Amanzi, Steven notices several disgruntled fisherman and 'business-hit' townsfolk up in arms about the shark attacks which are affecting trade in the area. Many shops are closed, and the town has gone to the dogs (or is that 'Sharks'? ho-ho) In fact the only islander with any kind of cheery optimism is Lawrence Rhodes (the ever-busy Ernie Hudson replete with an accent that makes Sir John Gielgud sound ebonical) a major landowner in Amanzi, who seems smugly defiant at the towns dwindling fortunes (subplot, per-chance?)

("Whoever said you could ever work with men....You fucking child!")

Steven is assigned Mani (Tony Caprari, clearly channeling his 'inner-Pacino' by looking like Carlito Brigante, yet sounding like Tony Montana) a local driver/boats-man to assist the marine biologist around the island.

(Doogie Howser thought the beard might attract the girls/boys)

Steven visits his friend (idealistic) scientist Dr. Miles Craven (Bentley Mitchum) who is researching the link between shark cells and curing cancer. Miles (smoking like a chimney, despite being in a research lab) casually explains to Steven, that Marc DeSantis died when his boat sank in shark-infested waters.

("We've got a Seiko-pathic killer on the loose!")

Steven meets up with DeSantis' sister, Corinne (Jenny McShane) who explains that her brothers arm was found (sporting a Rolex and not his usual scuba-diving watch) and smells something fishy (fishy..geddit?) During such a heart-felt emotion mixed with frightening intrigue, the film-makers remind us that this is a NEW IMAGE movie, by having Steven kicking several shades of shit out some local (disgruntled) fishermen in a bar.

("What do you mean, they've finished casting Starship Troopers 2?")

Steven and Corinne (along with sidekick Mani) conduct a Scooby-doo-style investigation themselves, by visiting the waters were Marc conducted his experiments, but are attacked by a ferocious Great White Shark* and make it out alive, by the skin of their (white-capped) teeth.


Arguing (again) with the local fisherman at the docks, we are (thankfuly) sparred another round of fisticuffs, when a Great White Shark attacks a young child in a small canoe (strange given that the town is rife with recent deaths, that a child be left unattended in the water?) But this doesn't deter Steven from jumping straight into the water (with harpoon in hand) and successfully save the child, just like Tarzan (another Chaacter Van Dien would later play/ruin/bastardize)

("Now lets see yours?")

Steven and Corinne go back to Dr Miles' lab, were he is conducting an autopsy on a deceased shark. It transpires that the devices Marc planted in the water, expanded the sharks livers, from which he could acquire more cells for his research.He reassures them that his experiments and the attacks are completely unrelated. Later that night Steven, Corinne and Mani attempt to subdue a shark with drugged meat, but end up killing it anyhow (nice, eh?) and after cutting it open, they discover that Miles' experiment has an aftereffect of turning the sharks into ever-hungry death machines.

Granite-jawed all-American Steven soon has his nerves of ice put to the test again, when the next day, he (once again) jumps into the water to save some bimbette from getting her shapely leg bitten off by another killer shark. They mention this attack (plus their suspicions) to (the ever-concerned) Lawrence Rhodes (during dinner) who can only offer (quote) "A cup of coffee and a fine cigar" as scant compensation to his guests.

(Hope Dr Miles kept the receipt for that teddy-bear?)

Miles takes Steven and Corinne to the local clinic, and introduces them to young Thaddeus, a boy seemingly cured of cancer, thanks to his 'shark-cell' research. Steven (surprisingly) unimpressed, confronts Miles outside, and gives him a lecture on "Playing God" Before walking off in a huff (likely pissed off at not inventing the cure for cancer himself)

Our Hero and heroine construct a steel cage, and set about checking on the underwater findings (via, the underwater devices that Marc had planted) and are attacked again by Killer sharks. During this, Mani is also knocked unconscious by goons #1 & #2 . Once again, Stevens ingenuity saves the day. Although upon reaching dry-land, they are kidnapped by the goons and tied together and thrown into the sea. Thankfully it's near Marc's wreckage, so Steven finds a air canister (what a stroke of luck!) so the hapless goons assume our heroes have been eaten and sail away.

Taking their evidence to Rhodes who (suddenly and rather uncharacteristically giving half a shit) calls the police. But as the 'pigs' arrive, Steven notices that the po-po are none other than goons 1&2 (political subtext, anyone?) So the pair flee the scene, but not before a nifty car-chase throughout the village (hey, this is a NU IMAGE movie, after all) Evading the goons, Steven and Corinne return to the clinic, to find little Thaddeus near deaths door (once more). It turns out that Miles' has fucked up, and his cure is only short-term (which probably amuses the omnipotent Steven) Breaking into Miles lab, Steven and Corinne find the good doctor is waiting for them. After much heated debate, about ethics, Steven makes off with Miles' research disc (because he's the lantern jawed hero) whilst Corinne is captured (because she's a woman, and therefore needs rescuing?)

("I was fresh out of activator, so had to use petroleum")

Steven, together with Mani ransack Rhodes office and find out that Port Amanzi is built on prime oil development land. Rhodes is using Miles' shark drugs to increase their appetite, thus either eating (or scaring) off the locals, so he gets to own the oil all for himself (and i thought Larry Hagman was a mean bastard?)

(Never take a knife to a gunfight, Flav)

However, Steven has a back-up plan when rescuing Corinne , in the form of an army of disgruntled fisherman, who storm the lab, and help out in the ensuing gunfights. Mani screams "Santa Maria" before sacrificing his boat to crash into the lab, and even goon#2 (aka Flavor Flav) unwisely giggles "I enjoyed feeding your brother to the sharks" to clearly miffed Corinne, who shoots him dead. Mani is injured. Rhodes kills the (apparently innocent) Miles (with a harpoon) and makes off in his helicopter, but not before Steven has climbed on board and thrown both of them into the water, culminating in a water fight that sees Rhodes end up as tomorrows shark-shit.

("Whilst you're down there, Casper?")

SHARK ATTACK is a muddled movie, in which there isn't enough shark-action. The flick could easily be called GUN ATTACK (as more people die at the hand of guns, than fish throughout the running time) It's all rather plodding, so it lacks the 'so-bad-it's-good' quality
The south African accents are terrible, but on the plus side, there's some nice scenery. The shark footage is OK, but obvious....Which is a shame because the briefly glimpsed 'Shark' model they used, looked pretty good to me.

(The new moustache wasn't an instant hit)

The aforementioned 'science' is baffling, but no less bizarre than casting Casper Van Dien as a marine biologist (as he resembles a 'surfer lovechild' between Lorenzo Lamas and Viggo Mortensen) Jenny McShane doesn't fare much better, but at least wears a bikini throughout (and she made up for any misgivings in 2002's masterpiece SHARK ATTACK III)
Ultimately though, SHARK ATTACK suffers from flat direction, and an over complex plot device that actually isn't actually about sharks. You sort of wish with B-movies like this, that they actually tried to rip JAWS off a bit more?

("Actually, now you come to mention PENITENTIARY II")

Best Quote in movie:

Dr Miles "That was pointless"

Worst Quote in movie:

Rhodes "This has been quite entertaining"

NOTE: Despite the disclaimer on the end credits that (quote) "No sharks were actually harmed during the making of the movie"...the two shark autopsy scenes are (all too) realistic looking for such a low budget movie as this one. Any ESA members...look away now!

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