"Movies are so rarely great art that if we cannot appreciate great trash we have very little reason to be interested in them." - Pauline Kael
You've heard the buzz. You've followed the rumors. You may even have bought the hat or the t-shirt, or photoshopped your own CNN title crawl involving the words snakes, plane and a couple obscene gerunds. Now, after months of waiting, Snakes on a Plane -- possessed of the simplest, the-title-is-the-pitch plot in years -- has opened without screening for critics, which is why I found myself at a semi-full Midnight show along with a crowd who, in many cases, brought their own rubber or stuffed snakes. Between TV appearances, interviews, recording material for "custom-made" promotional phone messages and photos draped in legless reptiles, star Samuel L. Jackson's been working overtime to plug, push and pitch Snakes on a Plane -- and looks like he's having a great time.
Of course, if you're going to bet your career on a roll of the dice, you'd probably want to look enthused as you toss them down. Jackson may be a movie star -- he's internationally known and, with his rippling vocal cadences, loved and mocked by pop-culture fans worldwide -- but he's yet to top-line a movie that opens to more than $35 million dollars. (Much like Jeff Goldblum, the total box office of films Jackson's been in is formidable -- but those are films where he's most definitely not the main attraction.) So, why not make a crazy-ass bet on some snakes?
Jackson plays FBI agent Neville Flynn, who is escorting Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips), a witness to a brutal gangland slaying in Hawaii, to L.A. to testify. It would be a serious setback for gangster Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson) if Jones were to testify; Jones can't be allowed to make it to L.A. alive. And so, in one of the most ornate and inefficient assassination plots the silver screen has shown us since the heyday of Wile E. Coyote, Kim arranges for an assassin to load the plane with a time-release box of ... poisonous snakes. Kim snaps at an underling who questions the plan: "Don't you think I've exhausted every other option?" Well, let me think: Guns ... knives ... garrotes ... No, Eddie, I don't think you have. When Hank (Bobby Cannavale), Flynn's ex-partner on the ground in L.A., is told of the situation, he asks the question we all would: "What kind of insane plan is that?"