Friday, October 4, 2013

JAWS: THE REVENGE (1987)

JAWS: THE REVENGE has a terrible reputation preceding it.  Widely lambasted as (one of?) the worst of the JAWS series, it's inspired countless tales and legends, including the one where Michael Caine says he's never seen it, but he has seen the house that it bought him.  Could it really be worse than JAWS 3?

SYNOPSIS: Sheriff Brody up and died of a heart attack, but Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary) is convinced that his death is attributable to worry about sharks.  Her shark prejudice gets even stronger when one kills her son, Sean, a deputy of Amity Island before becoming a corpse.  Her remaining son, Michael, convinces her to come to his home in the Bahamas, where she gets over her grief and falls for rakish pilot Hoagie (Michael Caine).  But guess who else goes to the Bahamas?  THE SHARK.  THE ONE THAT KILLED HER SON IN NEW YORK.  IT FOLLOWS THE PLANE.

WHAT WORKED:
A shark follows a plane to the Bahamas to seek revenge on a family for blowing it(?) up in the previous three movies. Or maybe the great white species elected this shark to act as its vindicator in the shark/Brody feud?  Either way, the plot is admirably ridiculous, even if the execution lacks a lot.  Plus it completely contradicts the lady scientist in JAWS 2 who says that sharks don't hold grudges.  Take that, science!



The early scenes on Amity (first ten minutes or so) really do capture the quirky island feel of the original JAWS. We even get reintroduced to familiar characters like Polly and Mrs. Kintner, who is over her Brody-hatred by now.

Like JAWS 3, JAWS: THE REVENGE is a bad movie.  But at least it doesn't look bad.  Director Joseph Sargent demonstrates adeptness at handling composition in the frame and some of the scenes have an appealing visual charm.


Again, bad movie, poor material, but at least they hired a cast that carries themselves in a professional way.  Decent actors are destined to be overshadowed by the flaws of their bad movies, but none of the performances here are noticeably bad.  I liked a lot of Lorraine Gary's effort—at least she doesn't sleepwalk through the film the way that lots of JAWS 3's soi-disant "actors" did, and it's a shame that JAWS: THE REVENGE seems to be the swan song of her career.


WHAT DIDN'T WORK:
Bad script, bad, BAD!  Not only are we to believe that the shark follows a plane for revenge, but JAWS: THE REVENGE tries to shoehorn in a very clunky late romance between Ellen Brody and Hoagie.  None of the characters are really characters in a non-shallow sense.  When one character is asked about Hoagie, he says, "He likes gambling, he likes women, don't bother me!"  That is pretty representative of what kind of writing effort we get here.


Alas, much of this languishes in boring bad-movie territory, so gem lines like "I've always wanted to make love to an angry welder...I've dreamed of nothing else since I was a small boy" are few and far between.  More often, we get dire and routine conversation, a ballast of words that weigh a ton.

  

The filmmakers must have been trying to win "Worst Shark of the Year" awards.  It looks atrocious here, which wouldn't matter as much if you saw less of it, but the big fake shark keeps getting rubbed in our faces.  This is what you paid to see, no?  Look at it!

Look!


LOOK!


It leaps out of the water and, as you've probably heard, roars, completing the circle of life by ripping off notorious JAWS ripoff L'ULTIMO SQUALO.  At many points, you can see the track that the shark is riding upon.  Ugh.


JAWS: THE REVENGE is undeniably excruciating, although I'd peg it as slightly better than JAWS 3.  All the sequels are a pale shadow of the towering original, though, so let's do the math.

RATING: 3


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