"When I say snakes, you say plane," yelled a giddy fellow in the front of the theatre.
"Plane!" everybody yelled back.
As we waited for the 11:59am showing of Snakes on a Plane, the audience was euphoric. Again and again, he yelled "Snakes!" and we – I mean they – yelled back "Plane!"
Another roar went up when the lights dimmed and the trailer for Black Snake Moan, which also stars Samuel L. Jackson, brought a rousing cheer. So what is it about Snakes on a Plane and the in-your-face mother-f**ker acting style of Mr. Jackson that has this audience so hyped?
The film opens innocuously enough with an easy-listening pop song playing as a lone biker – Jones is his name – zips through the lush forests of Hawaii, enjoying the scenery. Oh, wait a minute, someone's dangling from a rope. Bungee-jumping perhaps? No; definitely not. This guy is hurting and bleeding. He tells the biker to get away, just as Eddie Kim, the psycho who's going to take a bat to this guy's skull, pulls up. For the biker, it turns out to be the wrong place at the wrong time. Being an average, sporty kind of Joe, his luck isn't very good either.
Crazy boy Kim and his thugs catch a glimpse of him and the chase is on. He escapes, barely, and we next see him in his apartment, watching a news report about the killing he witnessed. Jones hears a buzz coming from the door, and as he peeks through the peephole, he sees those same nasty looking thugs he ran away from nonchalantly drilling his door lock out. He starts running again, but this time it's into the arms of FBI agent Nelville Flynn, who also tracked him down by lifting the fingerprints off the can of Red Bull energy drink he left at the scene of the crime. And here I thought that stuff was supposed to give you wings. Jones could have used a pair right about now.
FBI agent Flynn unloads a can of whoop ass on the thugs, and before you can say snakes on a plane, we're at the airport. It's at this point I realize this film is good. Damn good. The script is simple, direct, and filled with simple and direct dialog, which is sometimes witty, sometimes trite, but always spot-on. From the yellowish-brown tinting of the film, to the 1970s style of direction and characterization, this is a B-12 kind of B-movie.
And then there are the characters. As the plane is delayed, we meet the passengers waiting to board the ill-fated flight. There's the over-sexed young couple — you know they're going to get it but good; Mercedes, a young woman carrying her little dog named Mary Kate; two boys riding alone; a really obnoxious businessman — you just know he's going to get it especially good; the fat lady boozing it up, and the really nervous guy whose afraid to fly, along with his wife. There's also a mom and her baby, but no singing nuns, so that was a relief. Mom, baby, snakes? Yup, you know what's coming.
Agent Flynn and his partner, along with Jones, and a large crate of poisonous snakes in all sizes, hopped-up on pheromones to boot, are soon in the air. Seems crazy Kim wants to make sure Jones doesn't testify, even if it means bringing the entire plane down and killing everyone in it.
It's when the over-sexed young couple head to the bathroom that the horror movie kicks into high action gear. Lord, tell me they didn't just light a reefer in the bathroom? That's the foreshadowing for a really gruesome death in horror movies. And so it begins.
The audience counted down the seconds on the explosive timer as the digits dropped to zero. The crate breaks open and soon the little and big nasties are crawling everywhere and wreaking havoc. Using wicked closeups, we see the snakes in all their slithering and fangy glory as they bite passengers left and right, leaving bloody welts, swelling body-parts, and blackened dead bodies in their path.
And there's also snake-o-vision! You too can see the horrified faces of the scrambling passengers through a snakes' eyes, just before the fangs sink deep and the venom spits out. Brought to you in fuzzy greenish color. Sheer genius. The makeup and special effects are well done, too.
The snakes knock out the avionics on the plane, and with the plane flying into a storm, things are quickly moving from bad to worse. Thank the lord the writers of this film didn't watch Airport, otherwise they would have taken out the pilots, too. Damn, I spoke to soon.
Just about every airplane disaster movie cliche comes into play as the passengers fight to survive. And yes, there's a snake in microwave interlude also. What's so amazing is that it all works well, and the story keeps moving. You'll be on the edge of your seat, and waiting breathlessly for Mr. Jackson to say those words only he can deliver. When the time came, the audience said it with him.
"Enough is enough. I had it with the mother-f**king snakes on this mother-f**king plane!"
Agent Flynn and the passengers do a rousing version of the A-Team and fight to take back the cockpit from the venomous horde, and its up to the guy who logged 2000 hours of flight time — playing a fight-simulator game — to save the day.
Snakes on a Plane is a terrific summer movie, and Samuel L. Jackson is the only actor possible to make it work so well. I dare you to tell him otherwise.Powered by Sidelines