I have no reason to talk about Wesley Snipes’ extra-celluloid activities. I’m only here to praise the man’s status as a Legend of the Silver Screen. From John Cutter to Blade to Simon Phoenix, Snipes has created some of the most memorable characters of the latter part of the 20th century.
Our first Snipes flick is…
LIBERTY STANDS STILL (2002) *
Liberty (Linda Fiorentino) strolls up to her usual hot dog stand for some quick coke (And no, I don’t mean the soda. Yeah, it’s one of THOSE hot dog stands.) when a psycho with a sniper rifle (Wesley Snipes) calls her on her cell phone and says he’ll blow her away unless she does what he says. He forces Liberty to cuff herself to the stand and he then proceeds to… talk her ear off for 90 minutes.
This is the movie where Wesley Snipes went all DTV on us. After this film, his career slowly went downhill. Even though the movies he’s done lately haven’t been so great, I still dig Wesley and I hope he has what it takes to put his career on track again. (*COUGH* Blade 4 *COUGH*)
Liberty Stands Still is basically a low budget version of Phone Booth… except, you know… at a hot dog stand. I’m guessing Hot Dog Stand wasn’t a strong enough title. The title they went with though wasn’t so hot either. It’s called Liberty Stands Still because you know, her name is Liberty and since she can’t move or she’ll get killed, she has to stand still.
The rest of the movie is just as belabored as the title. And not only does Liberty stand still, so does the pacing. Perhaps in better hands, this unlikely premise could’ve worked. Unfortunately, it was directed by the chick who did Children of the Corn 666.
Both stars do their best here, but all they’re given to do is yak into a hands free cell phone for 90 minutes. And that’s basically all the movie boils down to… one big yak fest. Yawn.
Next up is…
ZIGZAG (2002) **
David S. Goyer wrote the first two Blade movies, which were very big hits for Wesley Snipes. Snipes rewarded him by starring in this low budget drama directed by Goyer. Goyer thanked Snipes by killing off the Blade franchise with Blade: Trinity. What a dick.
Sam Jones III (who may or may not be the grandson of the guy who played Flash Gordon) is a twitchy autistic kid named Zigzag who has a crazy crackhead father (Snipes). He beats Zigzag on a regular basis and demands he chip in on the rent. Zigzag works as a dishwasher in a restaurant and steals money from his boss (Oliver Platt, also in Liberty Stands Still) to cover the rent. Zigzag then gets his Big Brother (John Leguizamo) to help him find a way to repay the money so he won’t have to go to jail.
Zigzag throws just about every depressing thing you can imagine at the audience. Autism, cancer, prostitutes, child abuse, drug addiction, you name it; it’s in this movie. It’s not that it’s bad; it’s just not what you would call entertaining. Snipes is really good here. He’s realistic and scary and always makes his character’s menace seem natural and never showy. Leguizamo is solid too. Not as good as he was in Summer of Sam, but he turns in a fine performance. But although the film is well-acted (by Blade franchise alums Patton Oswalt, Natasha Lyonne, and Luke Goss), it’s ultimately a low key, unspectacular, and slight little drama.
AKA: The Robbery.
And our final Snipes flick is…
MAJOR LEAGUE (1989) ****
Major League contains not one but THREE Legends of the Silver Screen: Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, and Wesley Snipes. It’s one of those movies that I find almost impossible to review. That’s partially because I’ve seen it so many times and know so many lines by heart that I’m no longer able to look at this movie subjectively. My head knows there are flaws in the picture (like Corbin Bernsen’s wife’s infidelity with Wild Thing) and it knows the flick is formulaic as all get out, but my heart absolutely loves this movie.
Major League came out the same year as Field of Dreams and like that movie, it happens to be one of the best baseball movies ever made. Scratch that, one of the best sports movies ever made. It’s funny as Hell, features some terrific performances, and is so much fun that you can easily forgive it for all the clichés.
I could spend lots of time going on and on about Chuck Sheen in this movie. I mean Wild Thing Vaughn is one of the man’s most iconic roles. Since this is Wesley Snipes’ Legends post, I feel more compelled to discuss his performance. He’s pretty brilliant as Willie Mays Hayes, the outfielder who cons his way onto the team and wins the coaches over with his blazing speed. This role gave us our first real taste of what Snipes was capable of. He’s funny, likeable, and is able to share the spotlight with his co-stars without necessarily stealing their thunder. Rather he compliments their performances and they in turn do likewise. Pretty fitting for a movie that’s all about teamwork.
The supporting cast is really great in this thing. Probably my favorite player was Dennis Haysbert as the voodoo witch doctor, Pedro Cerrano. And it was nice seeing Rene Russo in an early role too. But it’s Bob Uecker who steals the movie. He’s thoroughly awesome as the Indians’ announcer and gets all of the movie’s biggest laughs.
For whatever reason, Snipes refused to return for Major League 2. I think everyone lost because of that decision. While Part 2 is no classic, it’s definitely a worthy sequel that nevertheless would’ve benefitted from his presence.
Next week’s Legend: Michael Pare.