Sharks, canals, swordfights, and Stevie B! “Sharks in Venice”

January 28, 2010
When you really think about it, why aren’t there sharks in Venice? The damn place is all canals, surely there should be some sharks in the water, right? Or some jackhole squids. Or even a couple of friendly octopi just hanging out listening to some Four Tet? I’m sure there’s a good reason, and I could Wikipedia it, but I’m not going to. For I have a movie to review, and that movie is Sharks in Venice. It features sharks. It features Venice. It features one of the lesser-Baldwins. Really how bad could it be? Okay, read those last sentences again.

So, Sharks in Venice…Well, we pretty much dive right into it (sorry), as we follow a couple of stock-footage scuba divers swimming beneath the canals of Venice. We know this is Venice (and not, say, Bulgaria standing in for Venice) because we’re treated to some nice stock establishing shots of Venice, and as we all know there are no canals in Bulgaria. Okay, we clear on that? So there’s no way—absolutely no way this could possibly be Bulgaria. None. And we’re treated to some opera-lite on the soundtrack, and we know they don’t have opera in Bulgaria.

All right so some divers are swimming beneath Venice (not Bulgaria—can’t emphasize that enough) while reporting back to a sinister bossman someplace else. Someplace dry. The divers all have Italian accents (not/not Bulgarian), and the amazing ability to speak perfectly coherently despite having regulators stuck in their mouths. For his part, the bossman keeps urging them to find eet! The bossman also has a bushy beard, and wavy black hair that makes him look less Venetian than a renegade from a Mexican soap opera or a Turkish porno. Anyway, we never get to find out what eet is, because before you know it, the divers are picked off by stock footage of a Great White shark culled from the seemingly millions of hours of Shark Week. We know this is stock footage because A) the actors and the shark never seem to be in the same frame, and B) the divers are deep beneath Bul…Venice, while the shark is shown to be about six inches beneath the water’s surface. Anyway, chomp, chomp, and the bossman is really frustrated. No way to find eet now.

Enter Stephen Baldwin as David Franks. He’s some kind of professor who blithely humiliates one of his cockier students in front of the class. Now right here you may hear the thunderous sound of my crushing disappointment as I realize which Baldwin Stephen is.  I know who Alec is, so cross him off, but I was holding out hope that maybe this was the one who was in Firefly—the one that isn’t one of the Baldwin brothers and is actually a pretty decent actor. I would have even settled for the bloated one from Homicide who has a tendency to O.D. No dice. This turns out to be the Xtreme Christian!!! one from–oh, fuck me–BioDome. Anyway, Stevie B learns that his dad was one of the aforementioned divers who got sharked and he’s all like, “That’s okay, ‘cuz my man J-Dawg is my comfort and salvation!” Well, I’m pretty sure he thinks that. Instead, he just stares blankly at the chick playing his girlfriend Laura (Vanessa Johansson) and says, “Oh no. I have to find him.”

So, Stevie B and Laura fly to Bulgaria Venice and meet with some cops and coroners who show him them mangled carcasses dredged from the canals and essentially ask him, “Hey, any of these chunks of meat your father?” He’s not, but Stevie B gets his Richard Dreyfuss on when the cops tell him they think these guys were killed by a boat propeller. “This wasn’t a propeller accident!” he exclaims. Well, exclaim is a strong word. His monotone is a bit louder, though. Stevie B really shouldn’t beg comparison to Richard Dreyfuss.

Of course the cops are all like, “Nope. No sharks in Venice. And if you say that again, we’ll feed you to some aquatic predators which are not sharks and have been terrorizing this city. Which is Venice, and not Bulgaria.” They also send a hawt cop named Sofia (Hilda van der Muelen) to investigate his father’s disappearance. Well, in short order, they find out his father was searching for a treasure brought back in one of the Crusades by Marco Polo’s fleet (WTF?!?) So he, Sofia, and Laura take a boat to more or less where they think his father was diving. Stevie B goes down, and…you know, we should stop here and acknowledge that Stevie B’s Xtreme Christianity!!!! does not extend to Xtreme sit-ups. Wow. Wetsuits are not flattering on him.

Well he swims around the underwater catacombs (or something), and promptly gets attacked by more shark footage. Stevie B manages to get away and falls bassackward into an underwater cavern containing the Crusade treasure. First, however, he has to evade some traps  that look to have been imported from the opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Fortunately, being attacked by a shark hasn’t left Stevie B weakened or injured. Just watch him: he leaps, rolls, and runs with the best of them. Except in the next scene he radios back to the boat, “I’m hurt. I’m losing blood.” This despite any evidence such as, you know, bleeding.  So Stevie B tries to swim for it back to the boat. Because swimming while weakened and bleeding is the best thing to do when there are sharks in the water. Any fish-scientist will tell you, sharks hate blood.

Oh, wait, no. Actually, that’s the surest way to attract them as, well, damn near everybody knows. So Stevie B gets about halfway to boat before the shark catches up to him and goes to town on him. For a few brief, glorious moments, we see Stevie B get totally Rodney Foxed. Naturally, I’m thinking, “Awesome! They got rid of Stevie B! I just saw a couple of his limbs float by! Maybe that other Baldwin-but-not-really will take over now! Or maybe the chicks will just make out for the next 45 minutes, because that’d be cool, too.” Ah, nope. Stevie B wakes up the hospital with all of his limbs intact. Yes, it was all a dream! Fuck you, movie! Just fuck you!

Okay, so back to the plot. The cops kick Stevie B out of Venice, because being attacked by a shark is apparently a federal offense there. Before a very-ambulatory-for-having-been-noshed-on-by-a-shark Stevie B and Laura can leave, they’re joined at dinner by our soap opera/porn star, whose name is actually Clemenza. He makes it clear over wine and a pretty tasty-looking veal Parmesan (not gonna find that in Bulgaria, where they eat rocks and, I think, rabbits). He tells them that Stevie B’s father was looking for the treasure for him, and offers Stevie B a cool 20 million to do the same. Stevie B, however, answers reasonably enough “You know I gotta take a pass…the cops are after me…I’ve been attacked by a shark…it’s just not a good time.” Clemenza lets him go…OR SO IT SEEMS! (duh duh DUH!!!)

In the meantime, the film reminds that there are sharks in Venice by showing one leap out of the water and snatch two lovers from the sidewalk! Man, that must have been one hungry shark. In a later scene one eats a gondola. An entire freaking gondola. I am so not kidding.

So, having turned down the gangster and with the cops breathing down his neck, Stevie B does the logical thing (logical to someone who willingly goes swimming in shark-infested waters while bleeding, that is): he goes sight-seeing with his girlfriend. He treats her to his vast knowledge of Venetian architecture and culture, “There’s a tower thingee…there’s another one.” I kid you not. Thankfully, his duties as a tour guide gets cut short when the gangster kidnaps his girlfriend and forces Stevie B to find his treasure. At first Stevie B tries to confront the gangster at his warehouse hideout, but he’s betrayed by Sofia who—duh duh DUH!—is on Clemenza’s payroll. “I should have known!” he murmurs (yeah, you say that a lot, don’t you Stevie B?) Oh, and on top of that we learn that the gangster has imported and raised Great Whites in the canals to prevent anyone from finding the treasure. Now, this plan would seem to have at least one major flaw in it—witness this whole movie—but hey, what do I know? Am I a shark-breeding gangster?

So with no choice, Stevie B goes back into the shark-infested waters with a couple of expendable henchmen (who must be really loyal employees). Okay, I’m bored now. Let’s speed thus up shall we? So, some sharks attack, there’s a sword fight by the treasure (really? We already have sharks, gangsters, and Crusader treasure, did we also need a sword-fight?) there are some explosions and then the cops come in to sort everything out. And the bad guy gets eaten by one his sharks, because…well, why wouldn’t he? Stevie B. lies to protect the bad cop because she had a change of heart at the end (Xtreme turning the other cheek!), and agrees to keep quiet about the sharks in the canals (Xtreme…oh, wait, that’s just socially irresponsible since the damn things are eating whole gondolas now). And they go home. Never did find Dad. Oh well…

Okay, so Sharks in Venice. What have we learned?

1)      Stevie B should not wear wetsuits, turtlenecks, or anything more form-fitting than those mumus Steven Seagal wears.

2)      If you’re attacked by a shark and you make it to land, you probably shouldn’t try and outswim that same shark.

3)      Likewise, if you’ve just told a gangster to go piss up a rope, you probably shouldn’t hang around sight-seeing.

4)      The Venetian police will deny the presence of sharks even in the face of public gondola attacks.

5)      Venice is not Bulgaria.

One comment

  1. Holy. Mother. Of Crapitude. Speechless.

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