Monday, June 4, 2012

Motherfucking Snakes on a Plane

Starring:  Samuel L. Jackson

Directed by:  David R. Ellis

Huh, who knew, who knew.

That may seem a bit out of context.  If you missed my previous reviews, you can find them here:

Samuel L Jackson, he’s a guy who has never met a script he didn’t like.  Seriously.  On IMDB he has 143 titles attributed to him.  I know IMDB is absolutely exhaustive…the list contains TV appearances, animated voice work, video game voice-overs, documentaries, etc….yet, still, 143 titles.  Take, for example, the filmography of someone like Harrison Ford.  66 titles.  That’s right, Jackson has more than twice the film appearances of Harrison Ford.

Other popular actors?  Say, Brad Pitt?  67.  Sean Connery?  91.  Sean Connery!  The man is 20 years older than Jackson and he still has 50 less acting credits!  Hell, even Val Kilmer, who seems like he’s in a new straight-to-dvd movie every week, only has 84 titles to his name.

I guess, what I’m trying to say here, is if anybody was going to be in a film with a title as ridiculous as Snakes on a Plane, it might as well be Sam Jack.  I’m just wondering if anybody else read it, furrowed their brow at it and threw it in the trash bin, or if they just went straight to Jackson, knowing he doesn’t even really read his scripts.  I mean, he was in XXX2, where they replaced Vin Diesel with Ice Cube.  That’s like making a Rambo sequel and replacing Stallone with Tom Berenger, or a sequel to Predator, replacing Schwarzenegger with Danny Glover…….wait a second…….

So, the movie.  Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips) is riding his bike around the island of Hawaii when he witnesses the brutal murder of a U.S. Prosecutor by unruly gangster Daniel Kim (Byron Lawson).  Only his quick wit and quicker crotch rocket (I think it was actually a mudbike, but there’s less fun in that phrase) help him escape the scene without being caught.

The next day (or maybe later that day…who knows and, it is, by all measures, completely insignificant) he is saved from some would be assassins by Neville Flynn (Samuel L Jackson), an FBI agent who wants him to testify against Kim in Los Angeles.

Jones eventually agrees, of course, and the duo sets flight to Los Angeles.  Of course Kim is aware of this, and sends his goons to leave a little surprise on the plane; crates filled with poisonous snakes, agitated by a special pheromone in to being more aggressive.  I would have thought if you could sneak crates of snakes on a plane maybe you could just manage getting a bomb on there, but that doesn’t really lend itself to very intricate plotting, I guess.

So how, you ask, does Kim know the snakes will actually attack Jones?  Well, it doesn’t really matter if they do, as long as they are successful in bringing the entire plane down.  As long as he expires in one manner or the other.  More or less ludicrously plotted than Deep Blue Sea?  You be the judge.

Still, I must admit, I rather like Snakes on a Plane.  The use of a giant Boeing 747 helps out immensely, giving the characters in the film room to move about.  From coach, up a set of stairs to the ultra-posh first class, in to the cockpit, and even in to the bowels of the plane, no stone is left unturned.  The death count is high and a couple deaths are rather gruesome and still others are, well, humorous.

Originally shooting for a PG-13 rating, they ratcheted up the violence and language in order to get an R, the opposite of what happens in almost every single film because it restricts certain viewers from seeing it.  Rumor has it the film was originally supposed to be titled Pacific Air Flight 121 (ick), but Jackson supposedly asked it be changed back to the “working title.”  Whether there’s any truth to these rumors I cannot say, but there had to be a time in filming where they realized this wasn’t going to be the next big action film and decided to completely run with the idea of camp, and let it sink or swim on those merits.  A brilliant marketing move which led to the modest success of a film that could have very well been straight to video.

There are definitely flaws though.  The biggest being the film has way too many characters:  A wealthy socialite with a Chihuahua in her purse, a grumpy business man, four prominent airline attendants, a couple kids on their first plane trip by themselves, a foreign woman with a baby, a rapper with two bodyguards, a martial arts expert, another completely unimportant FBI agent, Taylor Kitsch, a pilot and co-pilot, etc. etc.  This doesn’t even include the characters on the ground Jackson is in contact with throughout.

I understand in a film such as this you have to have a handful of disposable characters but *spoiler alert* most of these people make it through the film.  Most of the deaths are completely innocuous characters who only utter a line or two of dialogue.  This probably had something to do with the reshoots used to give the film its R-Rating, but it also erodes some of the suspense.  At some point you start to settle in to the rhythm of the film and realize most of the characters don’t seem to be in any real danger of missing the final credits.

Also it’s the only film reviewed that was not directed by Renny Harlin.  What a letdown.

Snakes on a Plane is probably the weakest link in this three pack, but it’s also probably a little bit better than you would expect, and based on Jackson’s filmography I don’t think there would have been a more appropriate film to substitute.  I paid $14.99 at Target for the bunch of them, and feel it was worth every penny.  I would have been more sold on just a Renny Harlin 3 or 4-pack, but maybe that’s not as easy a sell to the average big box shopper.  Although I can’t imagine anybody passing on a 4-pack that includes Deep Blue Sea, Long Kiss Goodnight, Cliffhanger, and Mindhunters.  The average joe-shmo might not realize the glue holding them together is Mr. Harlin, but they would recognize the greatness therein, this I can guarantee. 

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