The film creates a perfect balance between action and depth of basic needs, in the midst of an infertile atmosphere.
It is neither dumb nor smart enough to be fun, and spends way too much time with its boring human characters.
Stranded American with dubious origins takes a job as a deckhand aboard the vessel of a marine biologist and his attractive assistant as a means to escape the Sudan. Amid all the fisticuffs and double-crossing, a few people are mauled by a rogue shark. Ostensibly a sunken treasure picture, this film was notorious at the time of its release after one of the stunt divers was fatally mauled by a supposedly sedated shark, but this notoriety doesn't warrant any serious speculation into the film itself, which lacks excitement.Burt Reynolds as the gun-running Caine, while affable, isn't given the dialogue to make a memorable impression, while his supporting cast (some of distinction), also labour pointlessly with limited material. Mexican based actress Silvia Pinal is visually striking, but her characterisation is a muddled contradiction of sympathy and cruel indifference (that perhaps is not attributable to her interpretation, but the standard of the script).The scenery is uninteresting, the minor players are obscure and hollow (with the exception of Runt, the cheeky, cigar smoking Mexican boy whom Caine befriends) and the sight and sound elements are amateurish. Director Fuller reportedly was so ambivalent about the movie, he distanced himself to the point of requesting his name be removed from the credits (which was declined). Despite this, Fuller's appreciation of film noir is evident in the characterisations, dialogue and staging, which at times, is strangely reminiscent of a film noir.Though the title "Shark" bares some (scant) relevance to the plot, it's hardly a campaign of terror; three mangled corpses does not one shark movie make. Reynolds spends most of his time fighting, shaving and berating poor old Arthur Kennedy for being a hopeless drunk. In the end, everyone gets their comeuppance to varying degrees; some in the jaws of an unimpressive (in terms of threatening appearance, perhaps two metres at most) shark, others in more subtle fashion. Perhaps inspection of the novel on which this so-called film is based ("His Bones Are Coral" by Victor Canning) might glean some light on just why some distinguished film-makers elected to participate in such a mediocre picture.
Samuel Fuller was an acclaimed and highly respected director, so obviously when he himself thought one of his movies was pure rubbish; the public opinion got heavily influenced by that. Fuller completely disowned "Shark!", allegedly because the producers edited the finished product too heavily and used a tragic accident on the set as sensational promotion material, and hence it's widely regarded as a cinematic failure. Maybe if Fuller had stated that this was the personal favorite of his own repertoire, "Shark!" could have been a classic? In spite of its many, many shortcomings, this still remains an interesting film in my humble opinion. Fuller was right about one thing, though
"Shark!" is really badly promoted. The film falsely raises the impression this is an adventurous underwater thriller with non-stop man vs. shark battles and treasure hunting, but it really isn't. This is merely a story about typical human greed, double-crossing and swindling, imaginatively set in the noticeably hot and dusty North-Eastern hell of Sudan. Burt Reynolds, cool as always even though not performing at his best, plays a cynical gun smuggler gone astray after he lost a shipment of merchandise in a truck crash. He becomes involved with an acclaimed doctor and his blond muse in a little seaside town. The doc supposedly researches a groundbreaking medical breakthrough and dives for specific substance. In reality, however, they're diving for sunken treasures and literally everybody in the little town attempts to bamboozle each other. The titular shark – with exclamation mark – attacks exactly two times; in the very beginning, even long before the opening credits, and once more near the climax. It's a ridiculously small animal (the monster from Spielberg's "Jaws" would devour it in one single bite) and the shark footage is completely irrelevant to the plot, in fact. There's a nearly unforgivably large amount of boring sequences to struggle through and many of the sub plots are thoroughly uninteresting; like Reynolds' character Caine developing a supposedly touching friendship with a local Sudan street kid who smoke cigarillos like a pro. The photography and editing are effectively raunchy and the script contains some unexpectedly hilarious one-liners, for example "We'll be like one happy family
Happy sugar daddy, happy daughter and happy son-of-a-bitch!". The film is worth seeing for the downbeat character drawings and particularly to see how Fuller – undeniably a gifted director – conveys a very plausible atmosphere of greed, unbearable heat, selfishness and forlornness.
The majority of this Fuller film takes place in a little Sudanese village where Burt Reynolds can't seem to leave because of a little arms smuggling incident. He plays his usual tough guy role which is amplified ten times because this IS a Sam Fuller film. It all concerns a rather ridiculous plot involving sunken treasure in shark infested waters. What actually hat makes up 90% of this film is just a lot of macho, stupid and funny moments revolving around theft, fighting, drinking and romancing in a foreign land. Man Eater a.k.a. Shark! is an entertainingly mindless piece of celluloid that will probably go down better with a few drinks and some friends who can appreciate the trashier things in life.
Burt Reynolds (who never looked more homoerotic macho) plays an American criminal/gundealer in the middle east. After losing all his guns and money in a bust, he starts helping a beautiful blonde and her elderly sugardaddy dive for gold in the shark-filled waters of Sudan. What saves this pretty routine story is the "Fuller edge" put on the charcters: once again he is dealing with cynical, greedy anti-heroes, actually more complex than the lightweight story requires. Imagine a b-movie version of (the overrated) John Huston movie "Treasure of Sierra Madre" set in Sudan and with a bunch of hungry sharks thrown in for good measure, and you got a pretty good idea of what to expect. Also, it's interesting to see a pre-Jaws (pre-Jaws clone, pre-lousy italian Jaws clone, pre-computer animated Jaws clone...) shark-movie. It makes you realise just how groundbreaking Spielberg's movie actually was.Conclusion: Director Samuel Fuller has made both worse and far better movies than this. If you're a fan of his, or simply want a REAL film in these days of plastic moviemaking, by all means check this out. You probably won't end up loving it, but you'll probably agree it's a perfectly acceptable way to spend 90 minutes of your life. Give it a try.6.5/10