Bullet Points: Snake Eater
In this edition of Bullet Points, I’ll be taking a look at the movie that began Lorenzo Lamas’ transition from soap opera star to action star.
Snake Eater was released in March of 1989 while Lamas was still appearing on the night time soap, Falcon Crest. The movie would plant the seed for Lamas’ post soap career in the world of action entertainment and for two Snake Eater sequels that were released in 1991 and 1992 respectively.
- The Premise: Lamas plays Jack “Soldier” Kelly, a maverick cop who uses his Marine training and techniques to fight crime and irritate his superiors. Soldier wasn’t just any old Marine, he was one of the Snake Eaters, an elite division of the Marines that specialized in search and destroy operations. After pissing off his boss, Lt. Bronsky, one too many times, Soldier is asked to turn in his badge and his gun. Soldier hits the open road on his Harley but after he stops at one of his favorite watering holes (and after he gets in a entertaining bar fight that includes some amateur dentistry) he gets some disturbing news about his family. While his parents and younger sister were vacationing on a houseboat, they were victimized by some backwoods thugs. Soldier’s parents were killed and his sister was abducted and taken prisoner by the Deliverance inspired villains.
- They Ain’t Go No Alibi: Let me take a second to talk about the backwoods mafia that made the unfortunate mistake of terrorizing the family of Soldier Kelly. The alpha male of the group is named Junior. When Junior says jump, Eli, Clyde, Sissy and Slim ask how high. Now it is perfectly normal for characters, especially the villainous ones, to be less than attractive. But this entire group of swamp people are some of the ugliest people in the history of cinema. I was not surprised that all of them have less than 10 items on their filmographies. Who would hire them? Had they tried out for some horror films they may have gotten more roles and would have required less make up to make them look grotesque. I hate to sound so superficial, especially since I’m not going to be on the cover of GQ myself, but when I tell you these people were a special level of ugly I’m not exaggerating. As a public service I opted not to include a picture of any of them in this review. I don’t think there’s a person who ever watched this movie that didn’t want to see Soldier use his Snake Eater skills to wipe Junior and his fellow swamp scum off the face of the earth.
- USS Harley Davidson: Even an elite Marine can’t be expected to take on an entire army of ugly swamp people and rescue his sister all on his own. Soldier does get some assistance from an old biker named King, who runs a nearby Marina (the same Marina that rented the houseboat to Soldier’s family). King takes it upon himself to modify Soldier’s Harley Davidson into a jet ski and makes sure that Soldier goes into the battle with some firepower. He also gets some help from King’s daughter, who everyone just calls The Kid. When I found out that “The Kid” was her character’s name, two thoughts immediately came to my mind. 1) That is one of the dumbest names for a grown adult female character in action movie history. 2) What a different movie Snake Eater would have been if it was Prince reprising his Purple Rain role as The Kid. King would have had to make The Kid a purple jet ski.
Snake Eater, a movie that claimed to be as dirty as Dirty Harry and as dangerous as Deliverance, was a solid rookie effort for Lorenzo in the action entertainment genre. Lamas displayed a good mix of physicality and charm, two qualities that were no doubt the reason Lamas continued to get work in action movies and eventually his own series, Renegade, as the 90’s rolled on.
Here are some bonus Snake Eater Bullet Points for your reading pleasure…
- Familiar Faces: The one and only Larry Csonka plays Lt. Bronsky. Bronsky Fun Fact: While on stakeouts Bronsky is known to piss in styrofoam coffee cups and hand them off to bums. I wonder if he ever had to use this method of bladder relief at the broadcast booth during long American Gladiator TV tapings?… Classic TV fans may also recognize Ron Pallilo (Arnold Horshack from Welcome Back, Kotter) as Torchy an exterminator/arsonist. I wonder if his character was an homage to Robert Ginty in The Exterminator?
- If You Ever: …wanted to hear Lorenzo Lamas sing Kumbaya or tell a masturbation joke, then this is the movie for you.
- Acting Chops: While Richard Barathy, who plays the karate biker in Snake Eater, may not have had much of an acting career, he was damn impressive when karate chopping the beer bottles being thrown at him by Soldier during the bar fight scene.
- Send Noodz: If Snake Eater has any resemblance to his personal life, Lorenzo Lamas was never that guy sending “Send Noodz” messages to the ladies. Soldier sees two different women in the altogether moments after (Chloe, the drug dealer’s girlfriend) or before (The Kid) officially meeting them.