Shark Attack (1999)
Release Date: May 28th, 1999 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Bob Misiorowski Actors: Casper Van Dien, Jenny McShane, Ernie Hudson, Toni Caprari, Lee-Ann Liebenberg, Bentley Mitchum, Simo Magwase
n Port Amanzi, Africa, Dr. Marc Desantis (Cordell McQueen) waits aboard his boat for a file to upload, but he’s ambushed by two policemen, one of whom totes a machete (and chuckles during every shot, even when he absolutely shouldn’t). The title “Shark Attack” then flashes onscreen right after these corrupt officials smack Desantis over the head; it’s difficult not to laugh at the odd cutting from a human assault to the notion of a movie about a fishy one. Of course, the unfortunate scientist is soon tossed into shark infested waters for a toothy demise.
Dr. Miles Craven (Bentley Mitchum) of the Amanzi Marine Research Centre sends for Steven McKray (Casper Van Dien) from Florida to help with this sticky situation, which involves not only the loss of their main researcher, but also a record twelve confirmed shark attacks in a mere three months. “Holy cow,” murmurs Steven, with a lack of enthusiasm expected from this kind of low-budget endeavor, populated by Z-list actors. Once in Africa, the expert meets realtor Lawrence Rhodes (Ernie Hudson, doing his best to be a James Bond villain) and taxi driver Mani (Toni Caprari, doing his best to be a blithe sidekick), neither of whom seem to have much to do with the shark conundrum, as well as Marc’s sister Corine (Jennifer McShane, who walks around in a bikini quite a bit), who, remorsefully, has little left of her brother (specifically, just the wristwatch from his forearm, which was recovered from a shark’s stomach).
Photos of shark bites, a shark dissection, and footage of random sharks (which are obviously not shot for this film) fill in the gaps between light shark attacks, which occur virtually every time characters enter the water. Not-so-surprising appearances occur at a dock to recruit a boat; at Koisi Lagoon, where Marc did a lot of investigating; inside a shark tank; and even while casually sailing around, watching young women carouse. Additionally, limbs dangle in the water, boats are overturned, divers are startled while perusing underwater ruins, and shark cages have their tethers cut to cause them to sink into the inky depths. These are all very standard – if not plainly dull – shark movie scenarios.
There’s also a mystery afoot, as Steven and Corine attempt to uncover who is trying to lure sharks to a precise spot in the bay – and why. But, of course, it’s evident from the start which characters are the villains, while the “why” of it just doesn’t seem that important (and it becomes absurd when it’s revealed that the sharks have been hormonally manipulated to be ravenously hungry all the time, which ties into a cure for cancer). Additionally, scientific jargon, juvenile outbursts (“That’s the most irresponsible thing I’ve ever seen!”), bizarrely calm arguments, and awkwardly comedic romance keep conversations more time-consuming and slow than the thrills are frequent (which consist of car chases, bar fights, shootouts, assassinations, and vehicular explosions, all of which are entirely unrelated to the frenzied sharks).
There is, however, one clever scene, in which Steven and Corine survive an attempted murdering by making use of an oxygen tank that was previously abandoned; and one amusing line (featuring a welcome expletive), which Steven exclaims as he’s being chased by men with guns. But it’s not enough to counter the terribly bland scripting and narrative. The acting, cinematography, and editing aren’t even all that bad; the characters simply don’t engage in anything truly exciting, despite a flurry of action sequences and shark attacks. Every component of this movie contains a distinct lifelessness or overwhelmingly unintentional humor through pitiful design (which, at the conclusion, is downright hysterical).
– Mike Massie