Director – Luis Llosa
Cast – Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Jon Voight, Eric Stoltz, Jonathan Hyde, Owen Wilson, Kari Wuhrer, Vincent Castellanos, Danny Trejo
Release Year – 1997
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I remember being so damn stoked for the debut of this film when I was 11 years old due to my insane love for snakes, especially big snakes like pythons and…anacondas. The fact that this anaconda had acquired a taste for human flesh was an even bigger selling point for me, and now 14 years later this film is still a guilty pleasure of mine that I will never apologize for. Filled with numerous faults, clichés, and that usually crappy “90s” feel, this watch manages to eventually deliver a mostly positive experience for those who know what they are getting into(seeking killer snake action), just do not go into this one with high expectations.
Anaconda follows a “National Geographic” film crew lead by director Terri Flores(Jennifer Lopez; The Cell) and her cameraman Danny Rich(Ice Cube; Ghosts of Mars) as they travel by boat across the Amazon jungle in search of a long lost tribe. Along the way they come across stranded hunter Paul Sarone(Jon Voight; Heat), who quickly lends a helping hand to this inexperienced crew. When one of the crewmen suffers a life-threatening accident, Paul claims he knows of a shorter route to the nearest hospital. Little does the crew know, Paul is not leading them towards the nearest hospital, but to the very home site of the largest and deadliest anaconda on Earth, a snake he plans to catch whether the crew likes it or not.
I mention this film as a guilty pleasure of mine because in all essence it truly is a bad film, but one of the more enjoyable bad films out there. We all know about anacondas and other giant snakes, and there is a good chance that some of you out there have a phobia of snakes, and that allows this film to be relatable to those who view it. For such a “bad” film this flick is quite well-known, and I believe those are some of the reasons why. The rest will be explained as the review goes on.
For a 1997 film I was quite surprised with the snake action we get in this one. Director Luis Llosa(Sniper) made good use of the animatronic scenes with the giant snake, and gave us some of the better CGI FX for the late 90s. This flick reminded me of Jurassic Park with the usage of the snake. We get CGI during the nearly impossible to film scenes with the snake, and good animatronic usage for the close up scenes. The rest of Llosa’s direction is mostly positive, with the usual 90s Hollywood cheese we get with such flicks. The fight scenes between characters could have been better, and most of the acting jobs are oversold as usual. While I took of a bit form the film’s overall score for this, I did not find these elements to be a huge problem simply because they usually just come with the territory of such films.
Story-wise the film is as simple as the overall plot is. As I mentioned earlier, I loved the idea of a killer snake, especially one as big as this one. If such a plot does not grab your attention then you most likely will not find enjoyment like I did. The usage of Paul Sarone provides nearly all of the non-snake conflict in this one, with him taking control fo the ship and holding the crew members hostage and using their resources to trap the giant snake. Every other character serves their role in the film, although the most surprising to me was Ice Cube as Danny Rich. Why? Well, for once this rapper was not used in the overly cliché “gangster” usage we usually get when he or Ja Rule is in a film. Ice Cube did look like…well…Ice Cube, but he didn’t go around talking about “gats” or “busting a cap”, he was a well-used character for once.
Overall, this is a cool film if you are into giant killer snake flicks, just be aware that this one comes with some of the usual faults and clichés of such films. The anaconda action is good, making this “bad” film a mostly enjoyable one.