Can the 2006 summer blockbuster season squeeze one more weekend-long hit under its belt? The answer is yes, and faster than you can say Samuel L. Jackson.
When a young man accidentally witnesses a notorious Hawaiian crime lord executing his most recent victim, the FBI turns up in the form of Special Agent Nelville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) just in time as the bad guys were closing in. Flynn’s only chance of getting the witness to testify is to get him out of Hawaii secretly and to Los Angles quickly thereafter. Unfortunately, someone has seen through the FBI ruse: smuggling the witness out at the last minute on a Red Eye flight (and the other displaced first-class passengers be damned). But two hours into the five-hour flight, everyone will find out what the crime lord has in store to get rid of the witness, the FBI, and the passengers alike.
Snakes on a Plane (silly working title and all) is the very kind of movie many say Hollywood is afraid to make anymore, a gratuitous, high-profile farce that wallows in its R-rating and gleefully salivates improbability. It’s a disaster film that follows the tenants of a 1980s horror film: sex, nudity, snake bites in the least flattering or worst places imaginable, it’s all here. No deed good or evil goes unpunished as the reptiles slither after the innocent and the deserving alike.
Snakes on a Plane takes a Die Hard concept, sprinkles it with horror movie elements, and thrills with the unpredictability of poisonous snakes turning up just about anywhere, anytime and at the worst possible moments. But it’s merely the presence of Samuel L. Jackson (as both hero and host in a way) that guides the audience through from one thrill to the next surprise. Like its rating, Mr. Jackson is irresistible in this element, having honed such audience-awareness skills under the direction of many Quentin Tarantino films. His playing to the camera is dead on; we know he knows we’re watching and he’s going to give us what we paid for.
The real question is, will it make the kind of money promised by the insatiable buzz on the Internet? Bloggers have carried a torch for the ridiculous yet promising production since the working title “accidentally” leaked out. Instead of being saddled with an afterthought title like Passenger 69 or Slithering at Sixty-thousand Feet, New Line Cinema decided to just go with it and reportedly even added lines of dialogue and extra scenes based on fan demand. Does that mean that, if the film does poorly, we only have ourselves to blame?
In a sense, yes. There’s nothing subtle about the plot; it’s meant to be a crowd-pleaser, and if the audience is filled with people who want to cheer and thrill to absurdity and many random snake attacks, a good time should be had by all. But if your the kind of person who’s reading this review and nodding about just how bad a film you thought it was going to be, do everyone else a favor and stay home so the rest can have fun without you (did we mention that we saw a creepy-looking guy at your back door an hour ago with a bag that kept wriggling?)
(a three skull recommendation out of four)