Jaws: The Revenge (1987)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2009-06-20 18:06
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Written by: Michael De Guzman
Directed by: Joseph Sargent
Starring: Lorraine Gary, Lance Guest, Mario Van Peebles, and Michael Caine


Reviewed by: Brett G.





"Oh, shit."


The above line, spoken by Michael Caine's character in this film, pretty much echoes the sentiments of just about anyone who has ever come into contact with Jaws: The Revenge. The fourth and (as of now) final entry in the Jaws franchise actually served as my introduction to the series. In the 20+ years since I first saw it, the film has gone on to attain an infamous reputation, with many claiming it to be one of the worst films ever made. I'm not sure that it's quite that bad because there are so many more inept films out there, but it is certainly one of the worst sequels to a major studio film ever made.

It's Christmastime in Amity, and 'tis the season for a great white to feast on the islanders. Chief Brody is long gone (the victim of a heart attack), but this son Sean has followed in his footsteps by becoming a deputy for the police department. One night, he's called out on a seemingly innocuous task: removing a log from a buoy. However, unbeknownst to Sean, a giant great white is waiting for him and summarily dispatches of the younger Brody brother. Older brother Michael (now a marine biologist in the Caribbean) flies in for the funeral to comfort his obviously distraught mother, who actually believes the shark plotted to kill Sean. Michael eventually convinces Ellen to come down to the Bahamas; however, she's not alone, as the same shark that killed Sean apparently follows her down to the Caribbean to finish the job.

Obviously, Jaws: The Revenge garners most of its reputation from its absurd premise. A shark holding a personal grudge against a family is outlandish, even within the realms of the Jaws franchise. Perhaps most absurd is the fact that the film never explains why this particular shark holds a grudge against the Brodys, nor do we know what the "revenge" in the title refers to. I suppose we're left to assume that this shark is related to one of the previous beasts destroyed by the Brodys, which is wonderfully stupid. As the film goes on, it expects you to believe similarly stupid things: a shark that inexplicably growls and explodes, Ellen Brody developing a telepathic link with the shark and remembering events she didn't witness, and Michael Caine actually falling for her batshit crazy ass.

Beyond this reputation, however, I'd say that Jaws: The Revenge actually owes a lot of its problems to the fact that the film just drags once we hit the Bahamas. This is because there's just not a whole lot of interesting things going on: we follow the aforementioned geriatric romance, the sexual exploits and innuendos of Mike and his wife, Carla, and Mike and his partner Jake performing experiments with conch shells. Most of these characters are rather bland, with only Mario Van Peebles injecting any life into the film as Jake. Unfortunately, even Michael Caine is given very little to do. It's a shame too, as the first ten minutes are truly quite riveting and set up a decent amount of tension that just loses all momentum once the action shifts.

As a result of this approach, the shark itself isn't seen much. There are a couple of somewhat harrowing sequences, including an attack on a banana boat that has a pretty decent shot of a shark (however fake it may look) eating its victim. On the whole there's only two actual attacks in the whole movie, and they are by far the most interesting moments in the entire film until the climax, which is also the source of the film's infamy for multiple reasons. First of all, there's the fact that there were actually two endings shot, neither of which make much sense and look atrocious from an effects standpoint (just look to the left for proof). Apparently, the first ending didn't make much sense, so they decided to shoot an even more incomprehensible demise for the shark, which tells you all you need to know about the film.

It's hard to believe that veteran director Joseph Sargent was responsible for this mess, but that's exactly what the film is: a mess. Visually, the film is competent most of the time, but little else is right from the writing to the cheap, generic opening titles. Like I said, it's quite bad, but it hardly qualifies as "the worst movie of all time" because it is barely watchable. The absurd premise alone warrants one look at least. At any rate, the film did kill the franchise, and it looks like we won't get to Jaws 12 by the year 2015 (as predicted in Back to the Future 2). If you really want to get the lowdown on what's really going on the film, the novelization fleshes it out by explaining that a damned witch doctor with a vendetta against the Brodys is actually controlling the shark. Somehow, I've got to think that even something that stupid would have improved this one.

Jaws: The Revenge has been released twice on DVD, and many would say that's two times too many. At any rate, the original Goodtimes release is non-anamorphic and long out of print. The Universal re-release from a few years later is an improvement there, with an adequate transfer and decent Dolby Surround soundtrack. Both releases feature the second, more inexplicable ending, though AMC does occasionally air the film with its original, slightly less stupid ending. The AMC version also even features an opening Unsolved Mysteries-style narration that attempts to explain the film. At any rate, it's like a good friend of mine once said: Jaws 4 is so bad that Roy Schieder manages to get the best line in the film, despite not starring in it. Similarly, Michael Caine claims to have never seen the film, but says it is "by all accounts it is terrible." However, he has "seen the house that it built, and it is terrific." A ringing endorsement if I've ever heard one. Rent it!



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