So once again we have survived.

Snake Eater

tn_snakeeaterIn SNAKE EATER, Lorenzo Lamas plays a cop named Soldier Kelly. And it seems like that’s his given name, because even his sister calls him that. I don’t know if having that name subconsciously affected him or not, but he did grow up to become a soldier in the elite “Snake Eater” unit of the Marines. And he must be proud of this ’cause he always wears a belt buckle with a snake on it.

In 1989, while the rest of the world is busy listening to “Batdance” and trying to decide whether to watch Arsenio Hall or Pat Sajak, Soldier’s stateside doing undercover drug busts. We first meet him alone in a crack house singing “Kumbaya” and ranting to himself to make the stakeout guys in the car outside uncomfortable. If you’re ever trying not to get spied on by the cops, by the way, take a quick look around for two middle aged guys wearing ties sitting in a car all day drinking coffee and eating sandwiches. In this case they’re out there listening on the wire, one wondering who the fuck this crazy new guy is, the other running down Soldier’s full Just How Badass Is He? bio:

“He was a marine. One of the elite… Y’know, you gotta be one tough sonofabitch to make it in the Snake Eaters, and from what I hear this guy Kelly, he was one of the best: tough, imaginative, and a real fighter.”

Or as the trailer narrator puts it, he’s a “one man justice squad.”

A little later he gets a Just How Rebellious Is He?:

“The Marines are right, you can’t take orders! You’re an oddball! You’re some kinda  nutcase! Turn in your badge, you’re on suspension!”

mp_snakeeaterThis opening undercover scene is a great introduction to the character, not just because of that explanatory dialogue, but for at least three other reasons:

1. When a gangster’s moll wants to check him for a wire he convinces her to take her clothes off too and have sex with him right then and there.

2. He lets his partners believe the wire was hidden up his butt, even though it was in a special hairpiece.

3. He takes out 2 guys with booby traps, including hundreds of nails that pop out of the floor and a net that catches humans like they’re animals.

The irreverent introduction to Soldier continues as a motorcycle crash sends him flying head first into the outdoor seating area of his favorite biker bar hangout. And then some big asshole who carries around a pair of pliers and a necklace of human teeth wants to fight him for it. His friends decide not to intervene. The movie has a sense of humor that’s not really executed as well as it could be, but it’s still fun.

The dark side comes in out on a lake boat where a family of inbred psychopaths harass a non-inbred family of three on their boat, blow up the parents and kidnap the daughter. We come to learn this was Soldier’s family, so him being on suspension turns out to be a lucky break. He won’t have to build up his vacation hours to go on a rescue and revenge mission.

So Soldier goes tracking his sister, quickly gets into some scuffles with the inbreds, finds a girlfriend, etc. An old ex-biker converts Soldier’s Harley to a jet ski without his permission. At first he’s mad, but obviously it comes in handy. I mean, who couldn’t use one of those?

Weirdly, there’s a part where one of the kidnappers tries to get the sister to eat a snake. He doesn’t even know there’s a Snake Eater after him, so it’s just a coincidence. But she doesn’t eat it, so the title is not a double meaning. (SPOILER)

Once all the revenge and everything is over with Soldier goes back to his job of being a cop who plays by his own rules. He terrorizes an arsonist played by Horshack from Welcome Back Kotter. The end.

There’s a real good end credits song with lyrics like “Soldier, where’s your sister / Can you hear her helpless cries? / The only light to guide you now / Is the fire in your eyes.”

The script is by Michael Paseornek & John Dunning, two major figures in Canadian exploitation cinema. Dunning co-founded the company Cinepix, which made this and most other Canadian genre movies. It later turned into Lionsgate, which Paseornek is the president of.

I gotta say, Lamas is pretty good in this. He’s pretty funny. I guess he’s supposed to be sort of the Mel Gibson in LETHAL WEAPON type of funny-crazy-guy-cop. He gets a few intentional laughs. I remember Lamas from that TV show Renegade, when he was more of a muscly, long-haired Fabio lookin motherfucker. In this one he reminded me more of Treat Williams and Scott Foley (the younger guy on The Unit, I believe he might’ve also been on that show Felicity but it’s hard to say for sure). Hopefully soon those three will play a father-brother-son bounty hunting team.

Of course the movie is cheesy and ridiculous, made up of the laziest action movie cliches with little attempt at authenticity. But it’s pretty knowing about it, its kinda tongue in cheek. That’s arguably a bad thing, it might be funnier if it was dead serious. But it’s an enjoyable movie. The only real problem is that the last 2/3 doesn’t live up to the great opening section. I guess that makes it the WALL-E of late ’80s Canadian action.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 at 10:59 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

42 Responses to “Snake Eater”

  1. That VHS cover is too beautiful.

    Soldier Kelly’s ability to bed Cutie McScarChest within about 1 minute is his most impressive attribute in my opinion, slightly more impressive than his ability to don his pants in the split second it takes the film to cut when the bad guys arrive.

    Good review, Vern. Always nice to see a rare new addition to the “inbreds” tag. I better go rewatch WALL-E to verify whether your concluding theory holds up.

  2. I rank part 2 and 3 in the SNAKE EATER saga a bit higher than this on.Especially part 3 where Soldier teams up with Cowboy.They have some good male-bonding shit in that one.

  3. Actually, there WAS a time when soldiers ate snakes. Not as a first choice, mind you… it pertained to their survival skills. I found an HTML link about 5 years ago to an old Life Magazine article about Green Beret advisers in Vietnam back in ’62. One of the pics showed a soldier with a (dead) snake cut open and putting a piece of snakemeat in his mouth. And of course, as with any strange critter you wouldn’t ever actually sample yourself, the caption claimed that it “tasted like chicken”. Thanks to the advent of MRE’s (the military equivalent of Lunchables), I’m guessing that snake is no longer the meal du jour, even under the most dire of circumstances.

    Which brings me to Sunny Point #2. With this snake-eating business in mind, it occurred to me that (in Avatar) the humans on Pandora could’ve easily subjugated the N’avi population had they gifted them with some form of restaurant chain that had drive-thru (or ride-thru and/or fly-thru, as horses and dragons were the preferred form of transport).

    Think about it: there you are, a badass N’avi warrior… out on the perimeter, kickin’ Sky People ass & takin’ names. Bein’ a dude; workin’ it. After a hard day of keeping it N’avi-real, you return to Hometree, walk through the columns, and there’s your wife. She doesn’t ask how your day was, or make you a martini, or drag you off to a nook in the tree for a quick hummer.

    No, instead she just hands you a bow & arrow with this LOOK on her face that says “Dinner ain’t gonna hunt itself; have at it, Skippy”. Having takeout at one’s disposal would alleviate all that. Everybody’s happy. And when it comes time for gentrification in the Hometree ‘hood, the N’avi don’t have a big hissy fit. They just pack their shit and go where the food is.

    I was gonna write the obligatory macho retort “There is only ONE snake, and that’s Plissken!”, but this seemed like a better tangent.

  4. Yeah, the opening scene in Snakeeater was great, but then it all went down hill with the redneck theme that was just… weird. The same happens with the sequel; Snakeeater ends up in a psycho ward playing wheelchair death-sports. That’s no joke. I’ve not made it to the third film yet. Please do check out my thoughts on the first two films on my blog!

  5. I love the opening too. The part where Soldier reads his own obituary over the wire is hilarious. “Cause of death: Excessive masturbation due to excessive boredom while waiting for a drug bust!” They broke the mold when they made Lamas.

  6. The tagline reads, “As Dirty as Dirty Harry, As Dangerous as Deliverance.” This is a little confusing. I assume the first part is referring to Soldier Kelly, but who is “as Dangerous as Deliverance.” Is this referring to the bad guys, or maybe the movie itself? Or is Soldier Kelly also supposed to be as dangerous as deliverance? If that is so, then is he as dangerous as Burt Reynolds, or maybe he’s as dangerous as those Appalachian people who raped the city slicker. They should have put more thought into this tagline. I’m not sure it makes sense.

  7. I don’t want to go off on a quick little soapbox but this review reminded me of the replies to the Innkeepers. Sometimes the people around here are so quick to sound smart that they forget this is a website that reviews movies like Snake Eater. Stop taking yourselves so darn seriously and let’s start having some fun around here. Thank you.

    And which Snake Eater features Bam Bam Bigelow?

  8. That would be SNAKE EATER III: DIE SNAKE EATER DIE.

    I hope you stick with the series, Vern. The sequels are even better than the original. The second one has rooftop wheelchair jousting and the third one has an electrified toilet. It’s the LORD OF THE RINGS of Canadian B-action trilogies.

  9. I love how fuckin inventive Soldier kills off people in the sequels. Lika a psychotic MacGyver.

  10. So there is this new movie coming out this weekend called Safe. It looks ok but then I learned the fight choreographer was JJ Perry and the director is Boaz Yakin AND James Hong is in it. There is even a reviewer who said it had the most jaw dropping fight’s in years which leads me to believe he hasn’t seen The Raid.

  11. That’s the new Statham movie, so I guess we all know what we’re getting.

  12. Is it possible to stay on topic?

  13. This review was a long time coming. Good to see Vern has come around to reviewing the SNAKE EATER oeuvre. As Mr. Majestyk and ShootMcKay pointed out the sequels do a better job at upping the irreverence but without always winking and nudging.

    Number 2 is interesting because it’s the only time I remember a vigilante character willfully check himself into a nut house. It’s a warped combination of a DEATH WISH (in the sense of taking out drug pushers) sequel with a bit of FIRST BLOOD (though not as much FB-ness as the original) and ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST. Horshack even manages to return.

  14. Sternshein – That would be SNAKE EATER III.

  15. Ah crap Mr. Majestyk already answered that. I should read through the entire thread before continuing to post more often. But yeah SEIII is most effective & my favorite of the 3 cause it’s Lamas’ respond to Bosworth’s STONE COLD in many respects.

  16. I’m trying to remember if ACE VENTURA also deserves some credit for having a protagonist check into a mental institution.

    Maybe, yeah I guess. But Ace isn’t as funny as Snake Eater.

  17. Plus he’s a Pet Detective and not a vigilante cop.

  18. That’s why I say “some credit.”

    We all know it’s just a matter of time til Detective Ace pisses off the brass with his loose cannand has to turn in his badge & gun.

  19. That’s why I say “some credit.”

    We all know it’s just a matter of time til Detective Ace pisses off the brass with his loose cannon antics and has to turn in his badge & gun.

  20. Uh oh, my modified iPad-laptop-iPhone internet device is tripping over itself.

    I’ll just give work & talkbacking a break while I go watch THE RAID again.

    If Vern completes the trilogy here, I’ll be jealous b/c I don’t have access to SNAKE EATER 2: THE TWO TOWERS any longer, and don’t remember it well, and I’ve never seen SNAKE EATER 3: RETURN OF THE KING.

  21. Shoot, I’d love to stay on topic but until Vern creates a message board we have to assume the latest topic is also for discussing other things that aren’t necessarily related but are something that readers might like to know about.

  22. Sternshein – Clubside, the ridiculously generous web guy, is looking into setting up message boards for me, but until then I prefer you talk about miscellaneous shit on this post:

    http://outlawvern.com/2012/03/27/seagalogy-updated-and-expanded-edition/

    which I designated as the new potpourri. I’m excited about SAFE but I feel like there’s more to discuss about SNAKE EATER here. Plus, if I don’t lay down some type of boundaries then it’s anarchy and every god damn thread is taken over by Batman and Michael Bay.

  23. May Crom always bless youtube. They have everything.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubrA650sosY

    There it is in all it’s glory, SNAKE EATER 2: WHEELCHAIR GLADIATORS. The famous power ballad instrumental fueled c-level action setpiece complete with wheelchair roundhouse kicks.

  24. As someone from a different part of this amazing planet I managed to get ahold of all the movies through*cough*cough* (if you know what I mean). No legal ways,sadly. I´d definitely pay for a trilogy pack of awesome proportions IF available. Well worth your time this series is.

  25. you know what else was going on in 1989? I was being born, that’s what

    also, as a gamer, I can’t hear snake eater without thinking “IIIIIIIIIIIIII’M STILLLLLLLLLLLLL IN A DREAAAAAAAAAAAM, SNAKE EATEEEEER!!!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CbFAZ2ztlE

  26. It’s a dope series. When I was a kid I liked it a lot cause it was like a weird hybrid of a Cannon Film and a Troma feature. I was the type of kid that still saw some soul in movies like this. To me it’s about effort and embracing what you have.

    As the series goes on they just get into it more and just treat it as doing their work. It has a certain charm in that sense. No matter how absurd and over the top it gets it embraces that and strives for a competent job at it and that’s admirable. It’s like the BEST OF THE BEST series in that term at least the first 3 except I think BotB does it better overall SE series is still worth the time if you ask me.

  27. SNAKE EATER sure is a weird series of movies. I really like Lorenzo Lamas, but here he is really let loose as opposed to Tv-Lamas where he is supposed to be a “renegade”, but it is hard to be a renegade within network-standards. He still need to maintain some form of good guy aspect on television which is bullshit as far as I am concerned. If you call a show RENEGADE, that is what we want you chickenshit network executives pussy assholes. You hear me?!!

  28. Also, Lorenzo Lamas was the only bright spot in that awful shark vs octopus movie from Asylum films. I enjoyed his agency asshole performance more than the promised main event…

  29. I tuned away from RENEGADE the minute I realized that it wasn’t the continuing adventures of Soldier Kelly. Missed opportunity if you ask me. Lamas could’ve pulled a Paul Reubens and just played that character forever. In TV shows, musicals, advertisements etc.

  30. It’s no SHARKTOPUS, I’ll give you that, but Megashark jumping out of the water and biting a 747 was pretty awesome. I also liked how they only had about eight special effects shots so they just reused them over and over again.

  31. Soldier Kelly does not fit in within TV standards I am afraid. As irony would have it he is much more of a renegade than Reno Raines.

  32. Also, to bring it on home, has anyone seen the Gary Daniels flick HAWK’S VENGEANCE. It’s another pre-Lionsgate Canadian action venture. Daniels plays a British Marine who has a stepbrother who’s a Canadian cop named (wait for it) Soldier. Is this an unofficial SNAKE EATER spinoff? And if so, why am I so goddamn excited about the prospect of an extended SNAKE EATER universe?

  33. Majestyk – that scene were the shark jumped 10000 feet (or whatever) to bite a passenger airplane was actually funny but reusing effect shots is never funny. They even reused establishing shots! That is just retarded…

  34. *correction* I am in a grumpy mood which prohibits me from appreciating even the stupediest of shit that might be looked at as funny but in my mind i just idiotic at the moment.

  35. Griff — When I heard the title of this movie, I too first thought of Metal Gear Solid 3. I don’t play many video games anymore, and that series has still stuck with me over the years.

    I have to admit that I’ve never heard of these Snake Eater movies. Were these popular back in the day, or something? Did you have to be Canadian to have seen them? I do remember Lorenzo Lamas from commercials for Renegade, and they always mentioned his name as if he were some big draw for the viewer, but I honestly had no clue who he was back then.

  36. RBatty024 – I’m not Canadian but I wouldn’t doubt that many Canadians have indeed seen it. In my case the video store was literally just around the corner from where I lived.

    At 2 bucks a rental and rent 2 and get 1 rental free deals I used to live there for most of the late 80’s to late 90’s. Rented anything that I thought had a cool videotape cover or had a familiar face on the cover.

    You saw the VHS cover for SNAKE EATER up there. If you’re a 6 yr old kid would you NOT want to rent that movie upon seeing a giant fucking snake wrapped around a guy with a gun? that’s why I saw SNAKE EATER. SNAKE EATER II also became a cable TV staple when I was a kid. So my exposure came from all that.

    I don’t know if they were ever super popular but I think it’s safe to say most people who’ve seen them or know about them have done so because they used to be loyal videostore customers.

    It’s probably the same reason they know who Don THE DRAGON Wilson is and know about Full Moon’s feature catalog. They spend a lot of time in video stores and rented shit that just looked awesome or interesting.

  37. Personally, I will never forget the poster for SNAKE EATER II: NERDS IN PARADISE because of the unlikely sight of Larry B. Scott wearing a bowler hat and a red trenchcoat (okay, maybe that part isn’t so unlikely) and toting a sawed-off shotgun (that part sure is, though). That shit hung in my neighborhood video store for like three or four years. I don’t know why I didn’t just ask them for it. That’s how I got my much beloved (and long mourned) RETURN OF SWAMP THING poster.

  38. According to my 1998 Videohound book, football hall of famer Larry Csonka is in this. I can only assume his acting is not up to par with his former grid iron glory.

  39. Been working on an Arabic language review of Peter Bergen’s new book, MANHUNT, and I thought I’d share this passage, which immediately follows a quick rundown of the components of JSOC:

    ***The top officers who ran the U.S. military were often suspicious of the “snake eaters” in Special Operations, whom they tended to regard as cowboys.***

  40. Okay, one more little MANHUNT passage, this one about a real-life Captain America Fuck Yeah to commemorate opening day for AVENGERS:

    ***[Under the command of Admiral McRaven,] the rate of missions in which Special Operations forces captured or killed their targets in Afghanistan or Iraq — soared from 35 percent to more than 80 percent. The amount of punishment JSOC was inflicting on the Taliban can be gauged by the fact that during this period, the average age of Taliban commanders in Afghanistan declined from thirty-five to twenty-five.

    McRaven is a strapping, dark-haired, blue-eyed Texan in his mid-fifties. . . . A battle-hardened colleague says McRaven reminds him of the comic-book superhero Captain America, while another says he “is reputed to be the smartest SEAL that ever lived. He is physically tough, compassionate, and can drive a knife through your ribs in a nanosecond.” Even as a three-star admiral, McRaven went out with his teams on snatch-and-grab missions about once a month in Afghanistan.***

    Not all badass motherfuckers are in the movies.

  41. McRaven…..Damn! If you are born with a name like that, you better turn out badass. Sounds like this guy filled his quota on that plentiful.

  42. Shit, man, I didn’t even think of that, ShootMcKay. Good call.

    Translation protocol is usually to phonetically translate tricky English names, but in this case that would be boring, so I’m going to look for a way to write the Arabic equivalent of “Admiral McAngryBlackBadassBirdOfDeath” somehow.

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