Following the rule of thumb that says ’If it’s got Michael Caine in it, it must be good…’ has led me to the doorstep of Joseph Sargent’s much discussed entry in the flailing franchise that followed Steven Spielberg’s 1976 smash. It may not have been in the same league, but Jaws 2 at least was a serviceable reprise, while Jaws 3 was tailored to take advantage of the feeble 3D craze of the early 1980’s. The franchise looked to be dead in the water, but somehow Jaws 4; The Revenge came along to take the shark, the Brody family, and audiences on an adventure that they’d never forget, not matter how hard they tried.
Roy Scheider returns to the role as police chief Brody, but only as a framed photograph on the wall of widowed Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary), providing a tenuous link to the first two films. She’s still living in the resort town of Amity, and is distraught when one of her two sons is gobbled up by a great white in the opening sequence. That he’s eaten while standing on the deck of his boat establishes that Jaws can jump six feet out of the water to stealth-attack victims, so physics isn’t an issue here. Ellen wisely decides to move from New England to the Bahamas, taking her remaining son Michael (Lance Guest) with her. ‘I want you to get out of the water,’ Ellen tells Michael, despite the fact they’re on dry land. Her aversion to the water is understandable, and yet somehow she’s always seen in boats, on the seashore, and terrorised in her yacht in the finale. Michael’s wife Carla is meanwhile working on a strange art-sculpture in their garage, and her equipment prompts him to flirtatiously remark ‘I’ve always wanted to make love to an angry welder. I’ve dreamed of nothing else since I was a small boy.’
Dialogue like this indicates that Jaws 4 is no ordinary movie. The setting is Christmas, the location is the Bahamas; alternative titles might include Christmas Jaws, or Caribbean Jaws, or Jaws on Vacation; it seems beyond reasoning that the shark would follow Ellen and her family from New England to the Bahamas, even given the bad blood between them. Ellen’s mourning scene is, unfortunately, hilarious; she looks and sounds more like a cat coughing up a hairball than a grieving mother. And if you thought the shark looked fake in the first film, then the flying carnival float sighted here boggles the brain, as do Ellen’s flashbacks to the confrontation in the original film; having flashbacks to an event you were not present at makes zero sense, much like Mario Van Peebles in this movie.
But here to save the day is Michael Caine as Hoagie, the scallywag pilot who takes a romantic interest in Ellen. He’s always got a tall story or a joke to tell; ‘When I get back, remind me to tell you about the time I took 100 nuns to Nairobi!’ he chirps. Caine’s lack of interest in anything but his pay-check here is legendary, and the footage does not lie; we see him enjoying the sunshine, walking on beaches, dancing, enjoying meals, having a booze up; it feels like they grabbed 20 minutes of Caine on vacation and then created the rest of the film around that footage. He pilots his plane like he’s riding a bus from the upstairs deck. At least Caine is having fun; not many actors can deliver a speech about what sharks do and do not do while dancing in a Samba parade, and it’s to Caine’s credit that he makes Hoagie an unforgettable character.
And Jaws 4; The Revenge is an unforgettable film, a true masterpiece of the so-bad-it’s good genre. It’s got more laughs than most comedies, and the psychic/voodoo connection between Jaws and Ellen is truly a mind-bender to contemplate. And while it made sense for the shark to explode at the end of the first film, it makes no sense here; arguably the Godfather of the sharknado spin-offs, Jaws 4 literally has to be seen to be believed.
This critic viewed Jaws 4 under laboratory conditions and with medical assistance close by. We do not recommend seeing this film without informing your local health centre of your intentions, Jaws 4 is not to be taken internally or thought about for any significant length of time, and the author of this review will not be held responsible for any physical or mental injuries caused.