After all what brings more pressure than a telepathic, reborn, teleporting, roaring, exploding, vengeful predator of the seas?

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The fourth installation in the Jaws series, Jaws: The Revenge stands out as the worst of the lot by far. From its scathingly bad plot, to its mundane editing, and almost complete lack of suspense - virtually impossible to create when the shark spends as much time on screen as all of the human actors - the movie fails at almost every level to entertain in any meaningful way.

Brief Background

If you haven't seen any of the Jaws movies, here is a primer, although you should really watch the first two, they are fabulous flicks.

In a small town called Amity on the Eastern coast of the United States, a vicious 25-foot great white shark begins terrorizing the town just in time for the summer tourism season. The plucky but hydrophobic police chief Martin Brody and two seasoned veterans of the ocean go out to hunt the shark - only to learn the shark is hunting them. Finally, in a climactic sequence, Brody blows up the shark by shooting an oxygen tank lodged in the beast's mouth.

In the second movie, Jaws 2, another shark returns to Amity, this time attacking the sailboats of local citizens - in particular, Chief Brody's two sons almost become fish food. Again, Chief Brody goes out to sea and takes care of business. One important caveat of this is that son Sean Brody becomes terrified of the water.

In the third movie, Jaws 3D, we learn that Chief Brody has passed away of a heart attack .. in 3-D! Okay, so that wasn't so exciting, but now we've moved to a Sea World clone where other son Michael Brody is working as a marine biologist. When a great white invades the park, a claustrophobic adventure ensues, with lots of gore and vicious death by cross-cut editing. Eventually, a shark hunter takes control with the help of Michael, and the shark is vanquished forever. Three down!

Like mosquitoes, sequels are born to suck.

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The Movie (WARNING: This writeup does NOT contain spoilers. That somehow implies the movie was once good, but I am "ruining" it. This film carries no such caveat.)

So, three sharks later, Jaws: The Revenge doesn't sound like it'll have much to offer. Oh, how wrong you were! Within the first few minutes, a Brody bites the dust. Sean - the one deathly afraid of the water, remember? - is out on a boat. Alone. At night. On Christmas Eve. Amazingly, the movie never even bothers to explain this (is he fishing for a fresh New Year's cod?), but when a harmless piece of driftwood floats by, Sean doesn't hesitate to investigate. My first thought at this scene was, Red herring! Look out behind you! Boy, was I wrong.

The shark comes roaring (yes, ROARING) out of the water from beneath the driftwood and instantaneously Sean is short one arm. The shark was using camo tactics! HOLY #%^#*^%#! Sean screams for help, but a local caroling group drowns him out, and the shark tips the boat over and finishes the gruesome task at hand. When Chief Brody's wife Ellen (Lorraine Gray) learns of Sean's death, she is overwhelmed. Her family has been tortured, stalked, and now killed by sharks for nearly 20 years. So what's her natural reaction?

She moves to an island in the Caribbean.

Not, say, Oklahoma or Austria or Chad or any other landlocked area with no chance of furthered shark hounding. Oh no, she moves in with Michael at his beachfront home in the Bahamas, where continues his work as a marine biologist. Of course, memories of Sean's death, dreams of shark attacks, and flashbacks to the shark explosion scene she wasn't even there for continue to haunt Ellen. And with good reason. Because the shark really is out to get her. And how we do know this?

It follows her to the Bahamas.

Oh yeah, it ain't done with the Brody clan yet. (Turns out a voodoo curse is responsible for the constant battle with Whitey) It makes a spectacular appearance (floating by Jake, Mario van Peebles' stereotypical Caribbean character, while he's doing underwater research) and then literally chews up the scenery, taking a big pulpy bite out of Brody the Younger's floating laboratory. From here on out, Michael tries to capture the shark as well as avoid telling his mother about the incident.

Meanwhile, Ellen has a new romance in Hoagie (with Oscar-winner Michael Caine), the local charter pilot and a bit of a rascal. He takes her on a tour of the island - the Tourism Commission no doubt defraying some of the costs of the stinker - filled with lovely dancing, energetic steel drum solos, and yes, fruity drinks with umbrellas in them. Still, Ellen is quite melancholy over the loss of her husband and son - and especially worries about her granddaughter (Judith Barsi, who was tragically murdered shortly after the film's release) becoming the next victim to the shark.

Finally, Ellen learns of the great white the hard way - he eats a tourist in a bananaboat. Secret's out! Ellen demands they move away from the island, but Michael is more determined than ever to capture the shark and continue his family's successful fish-hunting legacy. Finally, a showdown ensues, with the entire Brody family taking part. After Jake is apparently gnawed to death by the great white, the shark actually rises up on its fin, only to be punctured by a ship mast aimed by Ellen.


The shark explodes in a gory mist of blood and smoke (?). Then, an eerily familiar shot of a shark sinking to the depths of Davy Jones's locker appears. Yep, you guessed it: the director used the exact same shot as in the original Steven Spielberg classic! Even more amazingly, Jake survives with only minor bite wounds, leaving the body count at a meager two (three, if you count Bruce, the plastic carnivore). This just furthers the realization that somebody feel asleep at the wheel, and the horrific wreckage that resulted is simply too gruesome to look away.

This ending cannot be forgiven by Jesus Christ himself.

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In reality, there were only two things wrong with this film: making it and releasing it.

First, the whole idea of the film is a self-parody of the original. From directly stealing shots to indirectly stealing shots (the scene where Michael's daughter imitates her father's actions at the dinner table viz a vis the original) to the self-referential joke when Jake imitates the famous John Williams two notes of terror ("Dunnnnnnnn Dun") into Michael's underwater mic all smack of camp and laziness. Which would work if there was more humor the whole time, or if the shark emerged to sing a duet with Ellen, or some other "so bad it's good" idea. Unfortunately, they are far and few between.

The acting is passable if a bit on the narrow side. The dialogue is typical of the plot, a tad too sincere, and all of the jokes are non-shark-related, suggesting a sitcom writer given his first chance at the big screen. The special effects are just terrible - the shark is obviously fake, with four inch long razor sharp teeth (instead of their actual dulled but dangerous mortar and pestle rows) and a supernatural ability to predict the location of the Brody family. The editing is pretty poor: it's often difficult to tell what's going on at any moment when the shark is around. And if you thought the ending you saw was bad, be warned: there are three different finales. In the original ending, Jake was eaten, but test audiences didn't go well for that (amazingly not complaining about the beginning and middle of the film). So a reshoot was done with Jake surviving (though the death of Jake can be seen on the TNT version shown far too often). Finally, the third ending had the shark not exploding, but merely being shish-kebabed on the mast and just dying. Why did they change to the exploding shark bit? Well, if 1966's Batman: The Movie is to be believed, the director was merely "pulling your leg." Rating: 1 out of 10. The whole John Waters theory to filmmaking saves it from the goose egg.

At least Michael Caine got a nice Holiday out of it.

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Joseph Sargent

Michael de Guzman

John Williams
Michael Small

Lorraine Gary as Ellen Brody
Lance Guest as Michael
Mario Van Peebles as Jake
Karen Young as Carla
Michael Caine as Hoagie Newcombe
Judith Barsi as Thea Brody
Lynn Whitfield as Louisa
Mitchell Anderson as Sean


  • My three viewings. Don't ask.