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Shark Attack III (2002)
1st Apr 08
Captain Jack pulls a woman with the finest come-on line in cinema history and, oh, there’s a really really big shark this time.
Cinema history is full of great, quotable lines of dialogue. Marlon Brando‘s backseat lament of “I cudda been a contender.” The punch line of Some Like It Hot, delivered with glee by rubber-faced supporting actor Joe E Kelley : “Nobody‘s perfect!” The cheeky, arousing promise suggested by P J Soles when she asks “See anything you like?” before unveiling her perky boobs in Halloween. Even the mediocre Blade Trinity has a marvellous moment in which a key, villainous female character is (not unfairly) referred to as a “cock-juggling thunder-cunt“.
Shark Attack III, directed by the mastermind behind, um, Shark Attack III, David Worth, has a line of dialogue as show-stopping and memorable as any of the above, though it will arguably never make it into the kind of breezy stocking-filler pocket-sized book of movie quotations that invariably dominate the shelves at Christmas. When he compiles his list of classic cinematic one-liners for the Radio Times film column, its unlikely that Barry Norman will incorporate this one.
Uber-irritating hero John Barrowman (recently enjoying Brit TV success in Doctor Who and its spin-off) succeeds in bedding the heroine (Jennifer McShane, returning from the original) with the immortal line “I’m really wired, why don’t I just take you home and eat your pussy?”. What woman could resist a come-on like that? Was this script written by someone who speaks English as a first or even third language? (Probably not, given the predominantly Eastern European names that dominate the credits). Random moments like the “pussy” line pepper the third, wackiest Shark Attack movie - there’s also an impromptu Steve Martin “Excuuuuse me!” moment - and give it a peculiar charm all of its own.
Aside from McShane, also returning from Shark Attack are the shameless borrowings from Jaws (“Get outta the water!” panic scenes, a shot of a freshly severed leg sinking underwater, the hero tries to convince the authorities to close the beaches, et al) and the prominent use of stock footage. In this outing, the stock footage is used more and with less effort made to disguise its integration : one notably amusing sequence cuts from grainy documentary footage of a massive swordfish to a shot of an unconvincingly struggling fisherman. Added to the brew this time is some beach-babe nudity and a goofy over-size main monster inspired by the success of Steve Alten’s still-unfilmed MEG series.
Barrowman, once a British kids TV star thanks to a stint on “Live and Kicking”, here has to face something even more monstrous than entertaining a bunch of kids on a Saturday morning in between live performances by EMF and East 17. He’s an obnoxious, womanising patrol guy at a Mexican resort with a shit-eating grin that makes one yearn for the versatility of Casper Van Dien. A growling 15 foot “baby” Megalodon - prehistoric ancestor of the Great White shark - is on the loose, noshing on tiger sharks, horny skinny dippers and biting the limbs off divers.
Barrowman sends a “Meg” tooth to San Diego-based palaeontologist McShane, who is extremely enthused (“It’s like finding a T-Rex in your backyard!”) and joins him in the hunt for the creature. They kill the baby “Meg” with a suitably hokey kiss-off line (“You’re extinct, fucker!”) but there’s still half an hour of movie time to kill, so its 60 foot mother (“Larger than a Greyhound bus!”) shows up just as the movie’s corrupt businessman/human shark is overseeing a swanky cruise. Luckily, Barrowman knows an ex-navy dude who constantly says things like “Bull fuckin’ shit!” and “Abso fuckin’ lutely” and has a bunch of useful torpedoes in storage. He’s even prepared for technical hitches : “Always carry a spare, it’s the navy way!”.
The moment in which Mother Meg first appears, in the form of photographically enlarged footage of a real Great White superimposed with computer-enhanced live action, eating a small boat in one giant mouthful, is some kind of absurd highpoint of Shark Attack III. It is, however, quickly superseded by the scene in which Meg Sr. swallows a life raft whole and the inevitable, hilarious moment in which the villain unconvincingly drives into the shark’s cavernous gob.
The hokey, sub-Bert I Gordon attempts to create a 60 foot monster shark are awkward to say the least : if you were cryogenically frozen in the fifties after watching The Black Scorpion and then reawoken to watch this movie, you would be bemused at how special effects standards had gone drastically downhill in the space of 40 years. Amidst all the diverting silliness is one fair suspense scene (the mini-Meg trapped inside a partially sunken boat and nearly eating our heroes) and a classic moment in which the defiant navy guy defiantly gives a 60 foot shark the finger.
The Shark Attack movies are available on DVD as a “trilogy” box set. If you buy it, they will probably make another one and Casper Van Dien’s straight to DVD career will continue. If you don’t buy it, both of those things will happen out of spite anyway.
Versions All international releases are uncut but the US version is in widescreen.