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Snake Eater

1989, Starring Lorenzo Lamas, Josie Bell, Ron Palillo, Ronnie Hawkins. Directed by George Erschbamer.

You have to wonder who the intended audience is for this movie. The box says "As Dirty as Dirty Harry, as Dangerous as Deliverance." Why they are comparing this 1989 film to movies from 20 years ago I do not know, especially when most action movie fans think that the genre lives and dies with Jean Claude Van Damme.

Lorenzo Lamas from Falcon Crest is the hero of this movie, unless you are Canadian. Then, if you are like me, the hero of this movie is Rockin' Ronnie Hawkins: actor and rockabilly legend. But he doesn't make the scene until much later, so you've got to make it through a heap of plot before things get interesting. It all starts at a stakeout where " Soldier" Kelly (Lamas) is waiting for some drug dealers to come into his "inner city" apartment. He makes several death-by-masturbation jokes into a hidden wire for the enjoyment of his backup, football legend Larry Csonka (!) and some other guy in a bad suit. While they are waiting outside in the car, Larry pees into a paper cup and then gives it to a homeless guy who asks him for a coffee! Then they talk about what a nut Kelly is!

So the drug dealer, who is of course a big-haired beautiful woman, makes Kelly strip "to see if he's wearing a wire" (it's hidden in his puffy coif, but he tells Larry it's up his ass). This is an excuse to provide gratuitous close-ups of Lorenzo Lamas' chest. Kelly and the dealer start to get it on, but are interrupted by two more dealers. Kelly quickly activates a booby trap which shoots nails through the floor into their feet. The girl gets caught in a net outside the door and everyone is arrested, but not before Csonka can do one of those Dirty Harry-esque " You're out of control, Kelly!" speeches.

Meanwhile, we are taken to a nearby yacht where a " Soldier" Kelly's parents and teenage sister Jennifer are relaxing. Suddenly, several backwoods folk led by a large man named Junior randomly storm the boat. How bad is Junior? Well, he gratuitously eats ketchup straight from the squeeze bottle! They kidnap Jennifer since she is "prime pussy," and "has hair and everything!" Then they torch the boat and kill her parents. Junior takes Jennifer back to his shack, and locks her in a little shed.

Oblivious to his family's problems, Kelly is heading down some New Brunswick back roads on his Harley when he finds The Cage, a biker bar where, a cop tells him the fate of his parents. Obviously disturbed by the news, Kelly gets into a fight with a large guy who has a necklace made of his victim's teeth. Kelly kicks his ass in an uninspired fight scene, and then pulls out one of the bully's own teeth. Then he beats up another guy by throwing lots of beer bottles at him.

Kelly soon leaves for "King's Marina," the place where his parents rented their boat from. I was relieved when I saw who walked out of the door to greet Kelly, and I knew that the movie would be okay after all. Yes it was King himself, played by Mr. Ronnie Hawkins. King used to be a biker, and tells Kelly everything he knows about the boating accident while drinking out of a bottle in a brown paper bag. They are interrupted by some of Junior's cousins who come up on the dock and arbitrarily start beating on Kelly. Knocked unconscious, Kelly is saved by his potential love interest/King's daughter (known as "The Kid"), who chases them off with a shotgun. When Kelly awakes, he finds that King has used the time to convert Kelly's motorcycle into a hilarious Harley/Sea-doo/boat hybrid. Kelly takes off down the river with the shotgun, vowing vengeance on all hicks.

Back at Junior's compound, the cousins keep trying to get at Jennifer. Junior won't let them since he wants her all for himself. He tortures her with a snake, and says awfully witty things like " It's time to meet Junior, and his best friend, Junior Junior!"

Kelly finds a place to set up camp, and starts sharpening lots of sticks to make more booby traps. Apparently neither King or The Kid have much faith in Kelly (and who can blame them?) so they both set off separately to help him. King camps out in the forest, drinking and mumbling things about killing hogs or something, but it's all too late Junior and the cousins have found him, and they kill him, thus completely ending my interest in this film.

What else happens? It's not like it really matters after the death of King, but Kelly blitzes Junior's house and kills a bunch of Junior's never ending supply of cousins. He gets his leg caught in a bear trap, but still manages to move Junior's head underneath the wheel of an oncoming tractor. He is reunited with his sister and The Kid, and everyone is happy. Well, except for maybe the viewer.

During the mid-1970s, Canadians saw a rash of rural revenge films such as Death Weekend, Trapped, Shoot, and Vengeance is Mine which used Canada's natural settings as a backdrop for reluctant heroes killing backwoods crackers. This genre continued into the 1980s with films like Bullies and Rolling Vengeance, but ended with the Snake Eater trilogy, arguably the most American entries in this sub-genre. Unlike most of these films, Soldier Kelly is patterned after American action stars. While the New Brunswick background is important, it does not take on a vital role like so many other rural revenge pictures. Instead, this film is all about exploiting Lamas and his negligible star power, as evidenced by the numerous shots of his bare chest disturbingly paraded at every possible opportunity.

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