Snakes on a Plane

Snakes on a Plane: not one of Samuel L Jackson‘s wiser choices, though he does well considering the appalling screenplay.  This feels like 50s B-movie gone wrong.  All around him there are awful special effects and plank-like acting reminiscent of the Woodentops.”

That’s how I put it in my list of movies I detest, and, if I may say, I was spot on.

I’ve seen lots of bad movies in my time, to be sure, but few that so offended my sensibilities that I would actually walk out of the notional movie theatre or, as in this case, stop the playback from my hard disc recorder.

Snakes on a Plane achieved this rare and dubious distinction by virtue of being a thoroughly nasty, cynical exploitation movie lent credence only by having a star actor like Samuel L Jackson to act as magnet. What on earth was Jackson thinking of? The pay cheque presumably, but the raw material here barely scratches the surface of his capabilities. This is the archetypal “phoning in a performance” cliche, and not the first either; it’s not long since I reviewed The Negotiator!

So, you might well ask, what was it that so offended me about this movie? After all, there are some halfway decent CGI snake effects, and the plot is no worse than a million other Hollywood B-movies; in fact the idea of poisonous snakes egged on by pheromones planted on a plane by a master criminal to eliminate a witness to a murder sounds pretty neat, on the face of it – all the more do since the producers of said movie surely and evidently regard it as a black comedy, a knowing spoof aimed primarily at dumb Amerivsn teenagers and their gum-chewing girlfriends?  They couldn’t really think of this as a pi-faced thriller… could they?  Consider this evidence:

  1. Script, the backbone of any movie. This one is comprised of jelly and flops everywhere.  It doesn’t send up disaster movies, it sends up itself without any help from other sources.  The acting might not be great but the actors barely stood a chance with this feeble insult to the richness of the English language.  Even the hiphop star sounds like he’s struggling to justify his music.  Pathetic.
  2. Jackson notwithstanding, the acting is worse than a thousand 70s cheap TV drama series put together, emotional reactions you’ve seen better in kiddy cartoons, you get my drift. Pilot no 1 goes to investigate electrical failure, is bitten by a snake and dies. Pilot no 2 goes to check up and finds no 1 dead.  “Must have been a heart attack,” he says, as if no 1 had gone off to the shops to buy a couple of six-packs.  I think he died of boredom actually.
  3. Soft-core porn might appeal to American teens but has no place in a serious movie, not anywhere else – even as a tool of send-ups. It can only be there (in the person of a beautiful young couple disabling the smoke alarm, smoking weed and joining the mile high club with prurient detail – his muscular torso and her breasts – and, having broken the rules, suffer the penalty of being killed by snakes.
  4. Special effects and dumb use thereof. Man goes to toilet, begins urinsting.  Snake pounces from toilet bowl to bite him on the penis. Cue shots of man holding rubber snake to penis. Even for spoof this is over the pail, as it were.  The guy mentioned above is holding a rubber snake to his neck as well, come to think of it.
  5. If this is supposed to be a send-up, shouldn’t it be funny?  Hang on a second: Wikipedia describes it as an “action thriller” – does this mean we’re supposed to take this tosh seriously?  Think I just died a little bit…

What is saddest of all is that this film actually doubled its money in the American release.  I wonder how many who saw it viewed this cynical exploitation exercise and actually made the effort to get out of their seats and walk out into the fresh air?  In fact, it was a pretty rash act to give up valuable time and hard-earned money for this movie, particularly when you could use the same time to see All About Eve, The Third Man, Brief Encounter or any  number of genuine classics a million times more worthy than this dumb marketing exercise that insults the intelligence and gives movies a bad name.

OK, just forget I mentioned it.  It doesn’t deserve even this effort!

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