Jaws: The Revenge (1987)

screenshot from Jaws: The Revenge

Directed by: Joseph Sargent
Screenwriter(s): Michael De Guzman
Starring: Lorraine Gary, Michael Caine, Lance Guest, Mario Van Peebles, Karen Young
Genre: Horror / Thriller
Country: USA
Running time: 1h 38m
Rating: 3 out of 10

The first Jaws film, as directed by Steven Speilberg, was a masterclass in suspense and terror, and was the first summer event blockbuster, setting a trend that hundreds would follow and few would better. You can pick any number of iconic scenes: Robert Shaw’s self-penned USS Indianapolis speech, the shark fin appearing for the first time, ‘We’re gonna need a bigger boat’. It was inevitably followed by a lesser sequel, which was still okay and at least featured Roy Scheider as Sheriff Brody, then a mediocre third instalment (originally in 3D) with Dennis Quaid as Mike Brody, an engineer at a Seaworld-type aquapark.

By Jaws 4: The Revenge, they were running out of Brodys, so we are treated to the original Mrs Brody, Ellen (Gary), and the third incarnation of unlucky son Mike who was a target of shark attacks in both 2 and 3. Having seen her younger son, Sean, killed by a shark, Mrs Brody has fled to the Bahamas to stay with Mike (Guest), his ignored wife Young and their poppet-like daughter while she gets over the trauma.

There’s a series of unfortunate mishaps at sea involving the Brody family and their friends, which leads Mrs Brody to jump to the obvious conclusion that the Brody family are being stalked by a great white shark. Sadly, the filmmakers never fully explain whether this shark with a grudge is a relative of one of the sharks killed in the three previous films, a reincarnation of one of them, or just a vigilante shark with a sense of moral outrage at the Brody family’s long campaign of violence against his species.

Surely someone – ideally Michael Brody or his wife, both with a background in marine biology – should have stressed the implausibility of sharks-with-a-grudge and quietly arranged for Ellen to have a long stay in some sort of mental health care facility with padded walls, restraints and serious sedatives. She could have had a room right next door to the screenwriter of this mess.

Of course, no holiday would be complete without a little holiday romance, and Ellen takes time out of her busy days full of shark conspiracy theories to grab a little wrinkly booty with Hoagie (Caine). He’s a washed-up old soak of a pilot who teaches her that you must always live life to the full and cherish every moment. Possibly, he read this on a fortune cookie. Interestingly, Hoagie also has an uncanny ability to swim in the Caribbean Sea fully clothed and then exit the water completely dry. Or perhaps that’s just poor continuity.

For all its many faults, the movie’s pretty watchable in a trash TV way. And you can always derive some fun from rooting for the shark when it homes in on both Van Peebles (he definitely can’t do accents and shouldn’t have tried) and the Brody’s kid.

Famously, Caine was unable to accept his first Academy Award for Hannah and her Sisters because he was filming this. Caine himself claims that he’s never seen Jaws 4 but he has seen the house that it paid for and that’s beautiful.

For your listening pleasure

SMERSHPod: Jaws: The Revenge

Joining John Rain to sink their teeth into Jaws The Revenge like two demented and unrealistic sharks are two brilliant comedy writer/performers: Paul Litchfield and David Reed, host of the excellent Inside The Comedian podcast).

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