Ice Cube stars as cameraman Danny Rich.
Anaconda is an adventure/thriller about a film crew headed by anthropologist Dr. Steven Cale (Eric Stoltz) and director Terri Flores (Jennifer Lopez) who journey down the Amazon River to find a mysterious Indian tribe and shoot a documentary on them. Other members of the crew include Danny Rich (Ice Cube) the expedition’s cinematographer, Warren Westridge (Jonathan Hyde) as their fastidious British narrator, Gary Curon (Owen Wilson) as the sound man, Mateo (Vincent Castellanos) as the sinister boat pilot, and Denise Walburg (Kari Wuhrer) as a production assistant. Along the way, they save a guy called Paul Sarone (Jon Voight) from a sinking boat. He offers to help in their search for the tribe, but he is actually a snake-hunter looking for the legendary anaconda snake. When Cale is bitten and nearly killed by the effects of a poisonous insect bite, Sarone takes over the boat so that he can capture a giant anaconda snake. The film goes on to deal with the conflict between the remaining crew members, Sarone, and the killer anaconda snakes.
Paul Sarone plots to take over the boat so he can catch an anaconda.
While the opening credits of Anaconda are rolling across the screen, there is a note to the viewer that “Alone among snakes, anacondas are unique. After eating their prey, they regurgitate in order to eat again.” So you know already that some of the cast is going to get eaten by the snake. The question is “who gets it?” And of course there is a relatively large cast of throwaway characters — the snake’s menu, so to speak — and you can quickly tell who is going get it. Mateo, the skipper of the boat, so they can’t easily get away, and Westridge, the obnoxious snobby narrator (why would you bring a narrator on the expedition except to get eaten by the snake?!), and you figure that Sarone, as the bad guy, will eventually pay the price for his evil ways. Then there is Danny Rich, a young black guy with attitude, wearing black high top chucks in the jungle. Maybe in past thrillers he would be a certain victim, but things have changed in the 90s and those chucks must bring some luck. Although he gets caught in the giant snake coils a couple of times, he manages to escape, and turns into the hero of the film.
What is that thing slippin’ and slidin’ in the water?
Anaconda is well shot to provide the appropriate mysterious atmosphere, and there is the requisite ominous sound track and special effects, but somehow the giant snake just doesn’t have the same scary impact as the shark in Jaws, or the dinosaurs in Lost World. Maybe it’s because the public has been saturated with this type of film, or maybe it’s hard to believe that a 40 foot snake could move so fast, and be so vengeful (does a snake even have the ability to think?), or maybe it’s because everyone knows the snake is a computer fantasy which looks a little too perfect. And there isn’t a lot of character interaction or plot development, so once the expedition gets into snake country, the film turns into a sequence of snake attacks and crew responses.
Terri and Danny become snake bait.
The best acting was by Jon Voight who delivers a campy and melodramatic performance as the obsessed snake hunter — sort of a combination of the Robert Shaw role in Jaws and Captain Ahab in Moby Dick — giving us grim facts about snakes while using the expedition for his own purposes and the crew members for snake bait. The other two characters who matter, Terri and Danny, never get much of a chance to show us what they are really about, other than the fact that they met in film school at USC. The point of this film really seems to be: here are some great new special effects; this time it’s a giant snake. Let’s throw in some characters, let the snake eat up a few, and all go home happy.
Danny fights back with real fire.
The next time you head for a cruise on the Amazon River, be sure and remember to pack your chucks. They are put to good use throughout the film, both in and out of the water, and actually seem to be practical in this kind of environment. Danny wears them in all of the scenes that he is in, and there is good chucks footage throughout the film. The best chucks scene has to be the final battle between Danny and Terri, Sarone, and the snake. Just remember: heroes wear chucks!
Danny rescues Terri from the anaconda.
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