Too short to be a miniseries but too long, really, to be a movie, this Hallmark production weighs in at a whale shark-esque two hours and forty minutes, which is a long time to endure a bad shark movie, so it’s a good thing this one is – believe it or not – actually halfway good.
Real estate tycoon Hamilton Lux (Armand Assante) has designs to redevelop the picturesque seaside town of Full Moon Bay into an exclusive coastal resort for the wealthy elite. Unfortunately for him, local fisherman Daniel Wilder (John Schneider, “The Dukes Of Hazzard”, “Smallville”) owns the property which occupies the heart of the planned resort and he’s in no mood to sell. Desperate to force the issue, Lux releases a toxin into the local waters, designed to kill off the local marine life and drive the fisherman out of business. But Luz isn’t aware that the toxin has a very different effect on the local shark population, making them more aggressive as they band together into multi-species swarms. Without fish to feed on, the sharks have only one source of food: the surfers and beachgoers of Full Moon Bay.
So far, so par for the course with bad shark movies. The crooked developer is as old as the original “Shark Attack” but this admittedly over-long movie actually makes a pretty good fist of the soap opera plot while balancing off the small town melodramas with regular and frequent shark encounters and kills. There’s a multitude of sharks involved, striking a blow for killer shark diversity with hammerheads, great whites, bull sharks and others getting in on the action. The kills are a little bit on the coy side as you’d expect from Hallmark so there’s not much in the way of out and out gore but there’s plenty of blood in the water and it’s not above putting even the cutest of moppets in mortal peril, meaning it manages to achieve a level of tension almost unheard of in these sharksploitation flicks.
It benefits from being directed by veteran TV director James A Contner, who’s helmed multiple episodes of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, “Star Trek: Enterprise”, “Angel” and “The X-Files” amongst others. Basically, if you’re a fan of any cult TV show from the 1980s through the 90s and 2000s, he’s probably directed at least one episode of it. He’s also no stranger to crappy shark movies either, having served as cinematographer on “Jaws 3D”, but don’t let that put you off. Here, he deftly balances the no doubt limited effects budget with some great underwater sequences which you can forgive for occasional repetitiveness given the running time. Where he doesn’t do quite so well is in coaxing the best performances out of his impressive cast.
F Murray Abraham could have put a bit more effort into his role as a local marine biologist, although he isn’t given much to do and John Schneider’s square-jawed man of principle is a little too good to be true, coming off as stoic and dull rather than principled and dynamic. Armand Assante, of course, can play a villain in his sleep (and keeps it toned down throughout even when some of his trademark intensity and swivel-eyed craziness might have been just the garnish the drama needed but it’s Daryl Hannah who fails to make a splash. Sleepy and disengaged, she never really seems committed to anything that’s going on and fades into the background of Schneider’s all-conquering earnestness.
Thankfully, whenever the performances fall flat or the runtime starts to sag, the sharks pop along to spice things up and it never slows down enough to be boring. With at least a conciliatory gesture in the direction of actual science and some decent twists and turns to the plot, it’s not a ‘good’ bad shark movie, it manages to be an okay shark movie in its own right.