Most likely the fan base features a healthy mix, which means they have a 50-50 shot at either enjoying Snakes on Plane for incorporating traces of all possible techniques, or feeling disappointed when their preferred approach gets the short shrift. Full disclosure: I couldn't describe my interest in watching Jackson fight snakes as anything but sincere.
The catch-all nature of Snakes on a Plane shouldn't be a major surprise. As its title entices in the manner of a lost '50s or '60s exploitation film, it's recalling a bygone era of drive-ins and double bills. Most of Hollywood's cheesy B-pictures in the post-Bruckheimer era are pricier, star-heavier, and quasi-self-aware, with cheesy jokes in place of cheesy straight-faced seriousness.
Thankfully, some of the cheesy jokes in Snakes on a Plane work; director David Ellis has shown an affinity for giggly mayhem in Final Destination 2 and Cellular. The setup of Snakes is as cheerfully preposterous as Ellis's previous films -- in case you require more than four words, Jackson plays an FBI agent who must protect a murder witness (Nathan Phillips) on a flight from Hawaii to Los Angeles; the murderers decide that the most effective penetration of the FBI's defenses involves time-released crates full of poisonous snakes. Our awareness of the impending snakes makes the movie's ridiculous first half-hour more fun than it should be; it's almost inherently funny for a movie called Snakes on a Plane to have non-snake scenes at all.
Once those snakes finally slither loose, in a stunning and, if you're still dealing with your brain at this point, mind-boggling variety, the film lets loose with an equally mind-boggling variety of snake-bite scenarios. The narrative isn't as driven as Cellular, but Ellis knows his way around crowd-pleasing mayhem, dashed with a little gratuitous sex and gags. At this point, Snakes on a Plane has delivered absolutely everything that it promises. The rest of the movie -- swift, fun, and somewhat less taut than you might hope -- is just additional B-grade imitation-cheese topping.
Jackson's presence, much-celebrated in the pre-release hype, certainly goes a long way in elevating the movie beyond late-night HBO fare (though the cast is surprisingly large and decent for a movie with more snakes than people). It's not that Jackson's performance is particularly captivating; in fact, he has only a handful of ass-kicking moments in a movie whose existence has created an insatiable appetite for said ass-kicking. It's Jackson himself who just plain shows up and seems to have a good time, spitting out his reshoot-added swear-words with gusto. (Contingent on your venue, this could be the critical point in the Rocky Horror-like audience participation.)
Though Snakes on a Plane is never less than entertaining, the best snake action is (spoiler alert) mostly over by the final act, and once the excitement of violence, sex, snakes, and Jackson subsides, it's admittedly difficult not to feel a little like a kid the day after Christmas. After all, Snakes on a Plane is more or less the last word on cheesy snake thrillers, to say nothing of thrillers wherein a ridiculous number of animals are loosed in a confined space. Prepare for a long hibernation lasting at least until the next "versus" movie. Fortunately, the end of Snakes provides more grist for the internet prodigies who might have more fun with anticipating anyway. Let's get the ball rolling on Snakes on a Plane Go Hawaiian.
Guess where the snake is hiding.
In Theaters: Friday 18th August 2006
Box Office USA: $33.9M
Box Office Worldwide: $62M
Distributed by: New Line Cinema
Production compaines: New Line Cinema
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Fresh: 117 Rotten: 54
IMDB: 5.6 / 10
Director: Don Granger, (na)Craig Berenson, Gary Levinsohn
Screenwriter: John Heffernan, Sebastian Gutierrez
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson as Neville Flynn, Julianna Margulies as Claire Miller, Kenan Thompson as Troy, Nathan Phillips as Sean Jones, Rachel Blanchard as Mercedes, Flex Alexander as Three G's, Keith Dallas as Troy, Lin Shaye as Grace, Bruce James as Ken, Sunny Mabrey as Tiffany, Casey Dubois as Curtis, Gerard Plunkett as Paul, Terry Chen as Chen Leong, Elsa Pataky as Maria, Emily Holmes as Ashley, Emily Holmes as Tyler, Mark Houghton as John Sanders, David Koechner as Rick, Bobby Cannavale as Hank Harris
Those bright sparks at Pixar have done it again, taking a fiercely original approach to...
Slick direction and meaty performances may be enough for some viewers, but this boxing drama's...
Loose and impressionistic, this beautifully shot film traces the career of a DJ who pioneered...
Without a single moment of originality, this found-footage horror movie really deserves to be the...
An intriguing premise keeps the audience gripped for about 20 minutes before the movie runs...
The increasingly stale Marvel formula gets a blast of fresh air in this rollocking adventure...
An unusually inventive approach brings this story to life, as the filmmakers get into the...
Fans of the surprise 2012 hit Ted will find plenty to love in this sequel,...