Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Empire of the Sharks (USA, 2017)

Well, we would not be living up to the name of this blog if we didn't, on occasion, waste our time by sporadically watching lousy films more than once. So let us admit here and now that we did exactly that: we've seen Empire of the Sharks twice now, arguably one time more than it deserves to be watched, but for that we must admit that we were able to enjoy it a bit more the second time around. Yes, it is undeniably a stupid and cheaply made slab of cheese, but ultimately it stinks less than Limburger and is definitely a lot easier to enjoy.

Trailer to
Empire of the Sharks:
A sequel of sorts to scribe and director Mark Atkins' earlier Asylum TV flick Planet of the Sharks (2016), which like this flick here was broadcast on TV in Northern America and saw a DVD release in Europe, about the only real thing the two flicks share narrative-wise is the flooded, post-melted-icecap world — lifted directly from that early (and, despite its reputation, financially successful) and oh-so-serious sci-fi flick Waterworld (1995 / trailer) — and, to the movie's advantage, a total lack of seriousness. 
If Planet of the Sharks ended with a mild ray of hope that life might get better, it would seem that the hope died quickly, for less than a year later, in the Empire of the Sharks, the inhabitants of the favelas floating on the flooded world are now under the thrall of an evil warlord, Ian Fenn (John Savage of Alien Lockdown / Creature [2004] and American Strays [1996]), apparently the only person on the planet capable of producing fresh water. He also has an army sharks at his command who, thanks to the marvels of post-apocalyptic science, do his beck and call. When the impoverished shantytown of Karatoa is unable to meet his compensation demands, he kills a bunch of them and also takes some as hostage. Amongst the latter, there is the blonde blank slate Willow (Ashley de Lange of the fun series that didn't last, Blood Drive [2017 / trailer]), who has in her possession a magic amulet that could possibly release her unknown and untapped powers as a "shark caller". Fellow Karatoan Timor (Jack "Ears" Armstrong) and his trusted gal-pal Sion (Thandi Sebe of Six-Headed Shark Attack [2018 / trailer]) decide to gather together a motley crew of shark fodder to free Willow and bring Ian down but, as we all know, "the best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gan aft agley, an' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain"... 
But, of course, despite the grief and pain and loss of a few good guys and a lot of bad guys, much like in real life all the time, good prevails in the end...* 
* If you believe that's how it is in real life, well, we here at a wasted life have a bridge to sell you...
Empire of the Sharks is an inordinately stupid film, but it is doubtful that anyone involved in the project thought otherwise. The special effects are also typically TV level — as in "subpar" — and most of the actors involved will eventually, if they haven't already, come to realize that their second, rent-paying job is their true vocation. 
But for all its flaws, at least the second time around we found the flick rather entertaining in its modest, undemanding way: it's quick enough, it has some flashes of decent humor, is packed with some fun (if fake-looking) shark deaths, and also offers a lot of explosions. One or two actors even manage to shine amidst the silly shenanigans, too: Jonathan Pienaar is fun as Mason Scrim, who directs the sharks much as if he were directing classical music; Camilla Waldman (also seen somewhere in Berserker [2004]) overacts nicely as the crusty Captain Ann; and Leandie du Randt, as the deep-sea diver Nimue, is definitely a pleasant sight for the eyes (as are, actually, the shirtless, overly muscular Gold's Gym-addicted henchmen that flit around in the background doing nasty stuff until they become shark feed). 
We will admit that the first time we saw Empire of the Sharks, as mentioned in our review of Planet of the Sharks, we were put off by the casting of John Savage, an actor for whom we had a boner during our teens when he was still an up-and-coming pretty boy (see the ancient headshot further below). In that earlier review, we mentioned that Empire of the Sharks was "substantially marred by both its uninteresting shark-whisperer plot and the almost constant presence of former top-liner John Savage in what is, basically, a pity-inducing role as that film's big baddie. How low one can fall..."
We would, at this point, revise our opinion, both in terms of the plot and Savage's presence. One, the film is a stupid film, so a stupid plot cannot exactly be held against it — what's more, scribe/director Mark Atkins manages to flesh the plot out in a relatively ironic manner, even allowing some of his disparate characters to experience some minor character growth as they swim towards their inevitable demises. Expect nothing, and you'll find that the movie actually offers at least some entertainment, despite the shark-whisperer plot. 
As for Savage, well, we have since come to appreciate the man as the John Carradine (5 Feb 1906 – 27 Nov 1988) of our generation: a talented actor as equally at home in A-productions as in B- and Z-productions.* Savage is merely a man who prefers any job to no job; but no matter what job, he gives his best — and maintains a viable career as an actor, something a lot of flash-in-the-pans cannot claim. 
* Whence he came, actually: his screen debut appears to have been as the lead in the apparently lost softcore sex film The Master Beater (1969), a film we took a glanced at ever-so-briefly in our Babe of Yesteryear look at the career of the Great Uschi (Part I: 1968-69). 
But back to Empire of the Sharks. In short, a stupid but fun film with flashes of enjoyable irony and a lot of bad special effects that makes for easy if unintelligent viewing. About the only thing the film truly could have used to become a lot more enjoyable is some naked skin and nude full frontals — say, of Leandie du Randt or the overly muscular Gold's Gym-addicted henchmen — but stuff like that is not only rare in this post-grindhouse world but also not the stuff of TV movies. Which, in the end, is exactly what Empire of the Sharks is. 
"Secret Facts about John Savage":

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