Thursday, September 6, 2007

Snakes On A Plane

(Samuel Jackson having a chat with his agent)
Comments by Katterfelto
...If there were an Oscar category for most "on the nose" movie title, Snakes on a Plane would shellac thecompetition.
...Samuel Jackson No-Dozes his way through the film as a cop assigned to escort a protected witness (an all-but-invisible Nathan Phillips) on a flight from Hawaii to Los Angeles. It seems that Phillips witnessed a gangland slaying, and Jackson wants to make sure the clueless sap lives long enough to testify. The bad guys have otherplans, of course, to which end they smuggle a horde of poisonous snakes into the luggage compartment in
tricked-out cages designed to release said reptiles once the jetliner is airborne.
...Directed by former pro surfer and stuntman-turned-filmmaker David Ellis, the film was oversold as a knowing homage to cheesy, man-versus-nature exploitation flicks
such as Frogs (1972), Piranha (1978), The Deadly Bees (1967), and Tail Sting (2001), the latter of which was about a bunch of genetically engineered scorpions unleashed on an airplane (likewise, mid-flight).
...The best thrillers work like a roller coaster ride. The slow, suspenseful rise to the crest of the gantry is just as important as the heart-stopping plunge on the other side. One of the problems with Snakes is that it's all plunge and no buildup, with very little subtlety or suspense. When the snakes get loose early on in the film, they don't just get loose; they cascade from the overhead in writhing knots as the passengers spastically flail at them, en
masse. Ellis depends solely on our knee-jerk reaction to having live snakes dropped in our laps, so he does little else for the rest of the film.
...The scenes of people being bitten on their boobs, butts and crotches were presumably intended to be funny and shocking, yet something in the way Ellis stages the shots
renders them neither hilarious nor horrifying. Moreover, the reptiles themselves are obstacles. Ellis's apparent fondness for crummy CGI effects suggests that he has
drunk deep of the Stephen Sommers Kool-Aid: there are moments when his snakes appear only slightly more realistic than a Hanna-Barbera cartoon.
...Decades ago, gonzo filmmaker Bill Grefe (pronounced "Gruf-fay") was doing this sort of stuff with a much smaller budget but a lot more style—and much less regard for the safety of his actors. For one thing, Grefe used real animals, not this pansy CGI stuff. In Mako:
Jaws of Death (1976), for example, Grefe put an actress in a tank with a supposedly dead shark, only to discover that the shark wasn't quite dead when it clamped down on the girl's arm. In Stanley (1972), a sort of Willard with rattlesnakes, Grefe used—you guessed it—live rattlesnakes. In Death Curse of Tartu (1966), Grefe used an enormous live python in a frighteningly realistic strangulation scene, and later dangled an actress from a tree branch, just out of jaws' reach of the gaping, snapping maw of a huge alligator. (No stunt people or safety harnesses were used.)
...Unfortunately, the only thing at risk in Snakes on a Plane is the suspension of disbelief. The predictable blizzard of rapid-fire scare shots notwithstanding, this emptyheaded boob job of a movie isn't nearly as stylish or as much fun as the films that inspired it, neither is it
amusing enough to work as a satire. From the weak Magnum, P.I.-style opening sequence to the numbing predictability of all that follows, Snakes on a Plane suffers from a level of creative laziness that is rare even among the genre it seeks to spoof.

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