A movie so non-union equivalent it could have been directed by Senor Spielbergo himself, “Shark In Venice” dives deep into classic Spielbergian action adventure (in ambition if not quite execution) and boasts a cast led by undeniable Hollywood A-list-adjacent talent.
When his father disappears while diving in the city of Venice, David ([Stephen] Baldwin) travels to the city to search for him and stumbles across a cryptic trail of clues leading to the long-lost fortune of the Medici. When his girlfriend Laura ([Vanessa] Johansson) is kidnapped, David finds himself merely a pawn in a Mafia plot to recover the treasure. Forced to complete his father’s work, David must dive the canals and catacombs beneath the city but there’s a complication: for some reason, a Great White Shark has decided to visit Venice too.
Unusually for a bad shark movie, “Shark In Venice” actually bothers to provide some crumbs of plot before the first shark kill even takes place. Furthermore, the shark itself *isn’t* the actual plot, they’re an obstacle to be overcome. The quest for the treasures of the Medici is the MacGuffin of choice. There’s a huge debt owed to “Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade” here, although the action never leaves Venice for further afield; this is the bad shark movie’s take on the Holy Grail. There are flashbacks to the crusades themselves and here especially the production values are pretty decent. It weaves in an exotic and improbably complex tapestry of history and mythology involving the Medicis, the Knights Templar, King Solomon and Marco Polo only to use this luxurious drapery as a casual bedspread for a plot which feels like a slightly soiled mattress on the floor.
Baldwin’s character is a Spielbergian archetype, a reluctant adventurer who prefers teaching to tough guy heroics. There’s even a nod to “Jurassic Park” as, in the introductory scene, he gives a playfully humiliating lecture to one of his pupils that’s beat for beat lifted from Alan Grant teaching the raptor kid a lesson. The effects are decent enough although there’s a heavy reliance on stock footage and lots of shaky footage of scuba divers and bubbles but overall, “Shark In Venice” is a passably entertaining bad shark movie. I mean, it’s still dumb as toast and there’s an annoying subplot about the Venice authorities refusing to acknowledge there are any sharks in the city’s canals despite the mounting dismembered evidence. Perhaps they’re so relaxed because while the pointy-toothed protagonist of “Shark In Venice” is one of the bitiest sharks yet encountered in Shark Weak, its bite to kill ratio is disappointingly low. At the very least, it doesn’t feel like a slog to get to the end of its adequately made story although once you’ve watched it, you’re unlikely to want to watch it again unless you forget you’ve watched it at all, which is a distinct possibility.
It’s a shame this didn’t go on to spawn a franchise, though, as I would have paid good money to watch Baldwin’s character hunt for a variety of treasures and historical knick-knacks in the waterway cities of the world. A quest for the ark of the covenant in the barracuda-infested canals of Birmingham, anyone?