Kim Newman has to see it on the day of release because there are no press shows; how could I resist the invitation to tag along? Along with the usual ads and trailers the presage the main feature, there’s one of those short films for Orange mobiles in which a star makes a pitch that’s derided by a committee of movie execs interested only in product placement. This time the star is Steven Seagal, and the piece is snappily directed and packed with sharp one-liners and neat parodies on action movie tropes. In short, it’s everything that the main feature aspires to be. The set-up is famously simple. Brutal Hawaiian gangster Eddie Kim wants to get rid of a witness (Wolf Creek
’s Nathan Phillips) to his slaying of a public defender, and arranges for a big crate full of venomous snakes and equipped with a timer release to be placed on the 747 in which the witness, under the protection of Samuel L. Jackson’s FBI agent, is flying to Los Angeles. The snakes are released and people start dying as the 747 lumbers into a tropical storm. The mayhem on the plane is fine, there are some good jokes and shocks, air stewardess Julianna Margulies is a nice foil to Samuel L. Jackson’s cool, and of course there’s the famous line added after the webstorm of publicity. But the movie can’t make up its mind whether it’s a spam-in-a-cabin slasher or an Airplane!
, the snakes, mostly very obviously CGI’d, are a pretty monotonous multi-headed enemy that doesn’t do much but snap and lunge, a promising sub-plot with a rogue snake farmer is dismissed too quickly, and the action sags for about twenty minutes before picking up for a slum-dunk ending. Snakes On A Plane
doesn’t live up to its hype (what movie could?), but it could have been a lot worse than it is, and at ninety minutes it definitely doesn't outstay its welcome.
Here's Kim's pithier review