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Friday, August 1, 2014

Snake Eater




Snake Eater
1989
George Erschbamer

Jack “Solider” Kelly (Lorenzo Lamas) is an ex-Marine now turned undercover cop. At least until he is put on leave after a drug deal goes (sexy)wrong. This is excellent timing as swamp hicks murder his family and his kidnap his sister. Soldier heads down south to even the score.  He meets, The Kid (Josie Bell). The Kid offers to help Soldier find the despicable ringleader of the bad guys, Junior (Robert Scott). Will Junior’s killer bear suit be enough to stop the wrath of Soldier?

Is Snake Eater a deliberate comedy? Filmmakers have often backtracked and claimed they meant their work to be funny after it became clear the audience wasn't taking it seriously. The Room (2003) is the most recent and famous example of this phenomenon. Snake Eater just keeps tossing silly moment after silly moment on screen. It’s obvious that Solider isn’t too concerned about anything. Is that winking 4th wall breaking or typical macho action hero stuff? The line can be razor thin at times.  There is also the matter of his family getting murdered and the repeated threat of rape against his sister, Jennifer. These events stand at odds to lightness of the rest of the film. I’ve re-watched this film a few times and I’m still not sure what the tone is supposed to be.

Regardless of the tonal issues, Snake Eater is quite watchable. Soldier is the Canadian answer to John Matrix/Mario Cobretti. He’s aloof, filled with one liners, and happy to mix it up with the bad guys. Lorenzo Lamas has never been an amazing actor. Here, appears to be enjoying his role and he allows his character to be the receiving end of quite a bit of misadventure. It goes a long way to making him endearing.

There so several ridiculous moments throughout the film. Soldier having his motorcycle turned into an aqua-bike hydrofoil. Villains who use a bear suit to murder their victims. The most fantastic sleeping bag escape attempt since, The Prophecy (1979).

The film is brimming with late 1980s action grit and jokes that fall flat. Snake Eater never works as well as something like Deadly Prey (1987). A film which keeps its grim fa├žade up regardless of whether a man in cut-off shorts is blowing up a tank, or he's beating someone with their own severed arm. Snake Eater doesn’t have near that level of conviction in its own premise.

Sure it’s cheap, it’s dumb, and I don’t think it has any idea of what it wants to be, but Snake Eater is an enjoyable albeit disposable action film. If anything, Snake Eater is a good gateway drug for anyone curious about low budget action, but put off by over the top violence. It’s an almost bloodless affair but still manages to deliver a few enjoyable set pieces.

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