Eye For Film >> Movies >> Shark Lake (2015) Film Review
Enjoying an enhanced public profile since his return to the big screen in The Expendables, Eighties action star Dolph Lundgren was hitherto assumed by many to be languishing in the Where Are They Now? file, perhaps having dropped out of acting altogether. In fact, he's been starring in about five films a year, as well as developing a sideline in producing and directing, making him one of the most prolific creative talents in the business. Over his busy career he has fought hoodlums and soldiers of all kinds, and has even had a run-in with James Bond. But he has never fought a shark. Isn't that a bit of an oversight? Wouldn't you like to see Dolph Lundgren punch a shark? If so, this is the film for you.
It's set in a small town, as almost all such fables are. A small town dependent on tourism and therefore on the hushing-up of suspicious deaths. Meredith (Sara Malakul Lane) is a police officer in said town. One night she chases down Dolph's character, Clint, a smuggler of exotic animals, but not before he has released something into the adjacent Lake Tahoe. Arresting him and sending him to prison, she subsequently adopts his small daughter (Lily Brooks O'Briant). Four years later, when Clint is released, she's frantic about the possibility that he'll take the child away, but she also has something else to worry about - a series of gory attacks along the waterline which a visiting oceanographer insists were not carried out by bears. Meanwhile, Clint is anxious to recapture the thing he put in the lake, before the gangster he promised it to harms his child.
With more attention paid to plotting and subplotting than is usual in a film of this type, Shark Lake holds a lot of promise, but unfortunately it didn't have a lot of budget, and this is probably why some plot strands are abandoned halfway through or resolved with hasty single scenes when they clearly promised more. Lane is good in what is really the lead role, and, unusually, makes us care about the human interactions as well as what the shark is up to, though we still have to wait too long for the first proper bit of on-camera shark action.
The film's real weakness is that it doesn't know quite what audience to pitch for. The underwater photography is good, the underwater direction bad, with an apparent failure to anticipate how water slows movements down and to take this into account in the fight choreography. Director Jerry Dugan too often approaches scenes realistically, so that they don't make the impact they need to. Shark Lake is at its best when it's not trying too hard, as when a man clinging to the side of an upturned boat is repeatedly savaged by what is very obviously a piece of rubber.
Delivering for Dolph fans means adding in the occasional punch-up that makes no sense at all, so Clint doesn't have a whole lot of room to develop as a character. He's a man who even cleans his teeth aggressively. Visiting his house, a burger-munching gangster laments "Lately my wife's been on this vegan kick, so I gotta get my meat where I can." Well, quite.
Slotted into all this is the family wholesomeness that's also a staple of the genre. O'Briant provides a spirited kid who generally keeps things from getting too mawkish, even if her storyline is tied up rather rapidly at the end. There's also a family dog whose fate is a mystery as everyone seems to forget about him halfway through.
"Who ever heard of a shark in a lake?" asks the sheriff. Actually, quite a few people, as the likes of Shark Night 3D and Swamp Shark demonstrate. There are very few unexplored ideas in the shark genre but, as with the zombie genre, the important thing is to do it well. Shark Lake has a touching sincerity that lifts it above average genre fare, even if we never quite get the level of Dolph on shark action that we might have been hoping for.Reviewed on: 27 Jul 2016