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"Snakes on a Plane"

Directed by David R. Ellis.
Written by John Heffernan and Sebastian Gutierrez.
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Nathan Phillips, Julianna Margulies and Bobby Canavale.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  8/18/06


Let's get it out of the way--I still can't believe that "Snakes on a Plane" was this good.

Charles "Chuck" Longer and I were hyping this movie since January, and the buzz around the new Samuel L. Jackson horror/comedy/action film has been nothing short of ridiculous.  So, after rounding up a lot of people to come check out a 10 PM preview of the film tonight, expectations were high.  Probably too high.  I had on my "SOAP" t-shirt (thanks, Chuck); the stadium theater in Tysons was packed; people were chanting "Snakes, Snakes, Snakes!" before the movie started; lots of people started hissing anytime it was quiet.  When the house went dark and the credits rolled, complete with credits that drew the first of many ovations, I was as pumped as I have been all year to start a movie.

The first ten minutes of the film sucked.  Sucked!  But, you have to set up a reason why we get some snakes on a plane in the first place:  a motorcycle rider named Sean (Nathan Phillips), just passing through a path on his way home in Honolulu, witnesses a brutal murder of an LA prosecutor at the hands of renowned criminal Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson).  Upon returning home, he sees that some of Kim's guys are trying to take him out, but--whoosh!--in drops FBI Agent Nelville Flynn (Jackson), who takes out these baddies and whisks Sean away to a safe house.  Flynn gives Sean a couple of options--fly to LA and testify against Eddie Kim as a key witness in the murder case, or go back home and die at the hands of Kim and his men.  So, off we go!  To give him a measure of protection, Flynn decides to fly Sean back to LA under light cover in a commercial airliner...but, Kim gets wind of the deal, so he stashes a time-release box in the cargo hold that is full of snakes.  That's right, snakes--sure, it would have been easier to just plant a bomb on the plane, and cheaper, and easier, but then we would have no movie.

And, there you have it.

After we get to the plane, "Snakes on a Plane" quite simply becomes the most hilarious, frenetic, gratuitously profane, bare-breast-ridden and violent movie of the year...and I fucking loved it.  From the hodgepodge of passengers we get just enough people to love, hate and feel sorry for, while not requiring that everyone needs to die; to the sheer energy of the snake kills (enough to keep you happy, just the right amount of variety...jeez, I'm still trying to count them all up between snake bite, snake eye gouge, snake nipple bite, snake swing from the...oh, I'll let you discover that one on your own); SnakeVision, a PredatorVision-like ripoff where we get to see some kills from the eyes of the snakes; shit, "SOAP" even features a "Rain Man"-like snake expert and a mysterious snake wrangler that needs to be apprehended from an FBI team based in LA (led by an agent played by Bobby Canavale).

"SOAP" was fucking fantastic.  I really didn't think that the hype would play out into a fun movie, but I was wrong...once the snakes get going, this is a fun horror flick.  We get a lot of dying, but director David R. Ellis (who did serviceable work with two films that should have really sucked, "Final Destination 2" and "Cellular") does great things with some surprise kills--good jumps are a requirement in a good horror flick--and some solid set-up kills, i.e. kills where you know somebody is going to die, they show us the killer/bad guy/snake, and the execution is still solid, maybe none better than when the guy goes into one of the restrooms and...oh boy.  We even get a solid dog-gets-punted-off-bridge moment midway through when a pet gets it unnecessarily.  All the while, our crowd was all over this thing...any time it got quiet, someone would start hissing, getting the whole crowd into it each time we thought a snake was near.  They howled over every funny line--none more so than The Best Film Moment of the Year, when Sam drops what is and/or will become the film's signature line, "I'm sick of these MOTHERFUCKIN' snakes on this MOTHERFUCKIN' plane!!"--and the energy carried all the way through to the ending.  (Second-place candidate:  "This plane's going down faster than a Thai hooker!")

Wow, I'm fired up right me a favor.  Don't wait to see "SOAP" in a couple of weeks, on a Tuesday after a long day at the office.  Go see it this weekend, get some friends, get sauced up if you have to, and just come in with an open mind.  I'm telling you, you will have a great time at the movies if you do.  This is now the frontrunner for best film of the year, and I really didn't think that was possible until now.

Rating:  Opening Weekend


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09