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Last updated
December 04, 2002
12:37:40 AM
The Saint
Double Team
Dante's Peak



Classification: Rated PG-13 (For intense adventure violence, and for brief language and sensuality.)
Directed by: Luis Llosa
Written by: Hans Bauer, Jim Cash, Jack Epps Jr., Neal Jimenez, John M. Mandel, Mark Haskell Smitt
Sound Mix: SDDS
Running Time: 89 minutes
Jon Voight - Paul Sarone
Jennifer Lopez - Terri Flores
Ice Cube - Danny
Eric Stoltz - Dr. Steven Cale
Jonathan Hyde - Warren Westridge
Kari Salin - Denise Kalber
Owen Wilson - Gary
Double Action Rating Conventional Rating Laughter Utilization (%) BIM Rating (1-10) Antic Level Buffer Zone (1-10)
30 2 DPC 2

A mindless plot and third rate special effects take center stage in this adventure / horror film. What's so unfortunate for this film, though, is that the effects are truly atrocious (which lends itself to a passable Double Action Rating, but more on that later.) While this movie does not attempt to capture the "Natural Disaster" trend, it is no less guilty of rehashing several tired movie plots all rolled up into one.

In a nutshell, a film crew is assembled to film a documentary about a mysterious Amazon tribe that has been heard about only in myths and fairy tails (and B rated movies such as this). These "People of the Mist" or whatever ridiculous name they go by, live deep in the jungle, where no one has ever dared to tread (theater goers shouldn't either). Along the way, the crew encounters a stranger who is stranded on his boat during a storm. They have no choice but to rescue him and take him along for the ride. Little do they realize, but the stranger is actually a notorious snake hunter in search of his biggest, final prey - a gigantic anaconda, worth millions of dollars if captured alive. He forces the crew into steering the boat directly into anaconda territory. Little do they realize, but the snake is so vicious and cunning that they become the prey, and they must do whatever they can to stay alive.

As you can already tell from the basic summary, the movie is completely predictable from scene to scene. As each of the characters is introduced, you can almost proceed through a checklist whether you think that they will survive, when they will be killed, how horribly they will be killed, etc. This of course is based upon character changes such as pretentious guy becomes good guy, or good guy becomes greedy guy, or good gal becomes killer gal, etc. This is precisely the hallmark of bad writing.

During the film I was often wondering why several of the actors participated in it, as some of them have actually produced respectable films in the past. Let's take a look at a few of them and what they have to gain or lose.

Jon Voight is clearly popping up more and more these days after an extremely long hiatus from the film industry (at least in "big" films.) Cashing in on his latest success from "Mission Impossible", Voight manages to finagle his way into what is basically the lead character in the film. Most likely he saw this script as another chance to get a larger percentage of screen time, and hey, let's not forget that this movie in many ways must have brought back those fond memories of Deliverance, in which basically the same things happens - some good people take a trip down a river only to find themselves threatened and tortured by strangers. I laughed everytime he had a close up (and there were many) where he seems to think that squinting with his head half cocked, holding his breathe makes him look mysterious and evil. If you look closely, it appears that he's desperately trying to hold in his own laughter at accepting this role.

Jennifer Lopez probably figured that it was a good opportunity to try and showcase her figure as the script called for her to wear water and sweat soaked tank tops that would present her bosoms in a good light. Ice Cube probably figured that if enough directors and studio executives see him holding a camera that they might get the hint that he wants to try his hand at directing. Eric Stoltz most likely just needed the work, and demanded that several makeup artists ensure that his hair look perfectly styled throughout the film (even when he's in a coma.)

I have one question myself - how could there be so many writers for this movie and still end up with a lousy plot? If you noticed, there are 6 writers responsible for creating this screenplay. I'll bet they were each completely hammered, and together barely amassed the brainpower of a single village idiot.

How can the movie deserve two and a half cough drops? Well, the special effects in this film are some of the worst that I've seen*. In virtually all of the scenes of the snake that show its body, you can clearly see that the snake is digital and almost two-dimensional. It would have been better if they snake were simply a cartoon drawing like "Roger Rabbit". I would have laughed less. For this reason alone, the movie managed to save itself from total mediocrity.


  Bookmarked Scenes:
Ex-Wife Wants Her Alimony Check
A poacher in a swamp shack is attacked by an unknown entity. The floorboards pop up one by one, and the man races up the deck climbs up the mast, while firing a pistol behind him. Instead of facing his enemy, he shoots himself in the head. Really, alimony payments are not that bad if you keep up...
Honey, I'm Home
Voight manages to catch the snake with the towline on the boat and we see the snake fight furiously. It manages to break free, and chases Lopez into the control room of the boat by smashing it's head through the window. It simply hisses at her and attempts to eat her, but is unsuccessful. Well, after a long day of terrorizing jungle creatures, doesn't the snake deserve a good home cooked meal?
Xena Wannabe
Voight is bound with his hands behind his back, around a mast of the boat. As a tearful Kari Salin approaches him with murderous intent, Voight leaps up vertically 6 feet into the air and wraps his legs around Salins neck, and proceeds to suffocate her. If only Voight had uttered XBC, this scene would have been worthy of DPCS.
The Fugitive, Part II
The documentary narrator finds himself caught behind a 75ft waterfall as the snake chases!!! him up the side of the cliffs. As the snakes head peers through the water at him, he decides "Why Me???" and then jumps to his unknown fate to the rocks below. Harrison Ford would have been proud. However, the snake snatches him in mid air (with cheesy special effects) and munches on his head which make this a scene stealer, surpassing Fords own work.
Here's Looking at You, Kid
Voight's crushed, twisted, partially digested body is regurgitated by the snake right in front of Lopez. As she screams in horror, Voight's suave, debonair character still manages to wink at her with his left eye since he feels that she must find him even more irresistible now. I must admit that I could not resist - laughing at him, that is.
Leaping Lizards!!!
The anaconda snake chases Lopez up through a 100ft smoke stack. As she nears the top which is sealed off by an iron grating, the snake almost swallows her but Ice Cube manages to stake the snake's tail into the ground with an axe. Thus we see that a 75ft, several ton snake can be stopped in it's tracks with a simple axe. It's great fun to see the snake's body behave like a pogo stick as it bounces up and down trying to get its prey. The smoke stack blows up, and we get to see the snake on fire as it plummets into the river. XBC would have been a welcome addition.

*Special Notes:

As mentioned in a feature article, "Disaster Spells Laughter", this film makes heavy use of special effects for the scenes in which the snake's body must be shown in it's entirety.

Films that use second rate computers to generate effects are so obvious because the snake is blurry, has very "plastic" looking colors, and casts no shadows.

The close up shots of the snake were the only ones in which the studio used their "lifesize" puppet, and they should have stuck to those shots alone. Indeed, most of the "excitement" came from the shots of the snake's point of view, in which the audience looks through the eyes and realizes just how close it is to the characters.

If a full body shot was required, (I could only see one scene in which this was necessary), they should have contracted ILM for the work and spent the extra cash to make it look real. But I'd be willing to be that the director was an honorary drinking buddy of the writers, and found himself passed out in his chair for most of the film.

However, the extent to which the poor special effects are used, as well as the ridiculous nature in which the finale is filmed and acted lend this movie to a good rating.

There's some truth in the old phrase, "more is less", indeed.


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