Jaws: The Revenge

Jaws: The Revenge


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

It is perhaps understandable that, after watching Jaws 3-D, a producer like Joseph Sargent would assume he could do better. It is more difficult to understand how he managed to do worse.

Ignoring the second sequel altogether, Jaws: The Revenge follows on directly from Jaws 2. Dealing with Roy Scheider's disinterest by announcing that his character has died of a heart attack (blamed on fear of sharks), it subsequently has the younger Brody brother eaten by a shark, sending his mum Ellen (Lorraine Gary, the only major cast member to return) in a panicked flight to the home of her other son, Michael. As it turns out, he has become a marine biologist, and Ellen just doesn't seem able to persuade him or his family to stay out of the water. Which is unfortunate, because before long there is a great white on the prowl. It's the same great white, we are told, as we saw at the start. This means it must have swum at just over 17mph for three days, continually. Not the kind of fish you want to mess with.

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Despite this silly premise, there is story potential here. We too rarely see what happens to horror or action film heroes after the trauma of their adventures. Terminator 2 boldly presented us with a heroine utterly changed by her ordeal. Disappointingly, Ellen's reaction is simply to whine more, but she has undergone one unusual development - she's developed a psychic bond with the shark. Anticipating its attacks, she decides that not only has it travelled all that way for her, but that it absolutely will not stop killing other people until she is dead.

With a premise like this, there are really only two ways to go: either camp it up big time or accept its innate weirdness and aim for something creepy and surreal. Jaws: The Revenge has neither the wit necessary for the former not the sophistication required for the latter. It's a damp squib of a film, so bereft of energy that you'll feel enervated from being in a room where it's playing, even if you close your eyes and plug your ears. It swallows its talented cast whole and spits them out. Michael Caine, playing Ellen's love interest, sleepwalks through his role and said in retrospect that he only did it to get a new house and spend some time in the Bahamas. It's a particular shame that it wastes capable child star Judith Barsi, who was murdered a year later. Gary herself seems distracted, barely present, with even he most emotional scenes falling flat.

Combined with this lack of energy is a lack of ideas. Beyond the ridiculous premise, there's nowhere for this story to go, and we don't get enough shark action to make up for it. Far too much time is spent on land watching people exchange worried looks. Yet for all the attempts at interpersonal drama we never get to know these people, let alone care. The hints of Greek-style tragedy that could have given it weight are undermined by a rubbish ending filmed at the last minute to satisfy test audiences, incompetent and incoherent as well as insipid.

Sharks have to keep moving to stay alive. This static seascape unsurprisingly proved a franchise killer.

Reviewed on: 09 Aug 2013
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An angry shark swims for hundreds of miles just to pursue a vendetta against the Brody family.
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Director: Joseph Sargent

Writer: Michael De Guzman

Starring: Lorraine Gary, Lance Guest, Mario Van Peebles, Karen Young, Michael Caine, Judith Barsi, Mitchell Anderson

Year: 1987

Runtime: 89 minutes

Country: US


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