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For fans of the Expendables franchise, excitement could not be higher as The Expendables 3 hits theaters this Friday. As the only film series bringing together a pack of cinematic silver foxes who have saved the world in some way or another, it should be a safe bet to say that if this new film is nothing else, it will most definitely be loads of fun for all those mindless action heads.
We look now at Wesley Snipes, who as many know, was supposed to be cast in the Terry Crews role of Hale Caesar, but was not able to leave the country without court approval when shooting on the first Expendables film was underway due to his tax issues. Now though, Snipes is back and ready to get back in the saddle for another high-octane action ride as the character Doctor Death, one of the original Expendables. Speaking of death, Snipes has dealt out his fair share throughout his career. The following is a list of some of the strongest films (and one of several questionable flicks) in which Snipes has had to lay the smackdown in the way that only Snipes could.
5.) Blade (1998)
Many credit Bryan Singer’s X-Men (2000) as the film that opened the door for quality stories being told about Marvel Comics characters; a sort of glimpse into what would eventually become the Superhero Film Renaissance. However, people seem to forget that it was actually Blade that was the first successful attempt at bringing a Marvel character to the big screen, in effect making it possible for others to dare exploring other characters. Snipes, who was already a star at this point, brought one of his best known characters to life convincingly. He had the martial arts skills and acting chops to make us want to follow him, but Snipes also manages to have fun while making some vampire heads roll.
4.) Jungle Fever (1991)
Spike Lee’s fifth feature film (along with the Stevie Wonder song of the same name), which explores interracial relationships in New York City, is one that coined a slang term for interracial love still used today. It is also an important film as it brings to mind some of the trials and even potential dangers of an interracial relationship back then. In a more dramatic role, Snipes plays Flipper Purify, a happily married, successful employee at an architectural firm who falls victim to the pleasures of the flesh and strikes up an affair with the newly hired secretary, Italian-American Angie Tucci, played by Annabella Sciorra. Though many deem this film to be Samuel L. Jackson’s scene stealing show, with his explosive performance as Flipper’s brother Gator, it is a great example of Snipes’ dramatic prowess and director Spike Lee, having worked with Snipes previously, knew how to allow Snipes to do his thing.
3.) Passenger 57 (1992)
Here Snipes plays John Cutter, a former police officer haunted by the murder of his wife in a store robbery. Cutter ends up duking it out with an international terrorist aboard an Atlantic International flight to Los Angeles. The success of this film cemented Snipes action icon status immediately and opened the door for other action roles to follow. This is really the first film where audiences became aware of Snipes’ stellar martial arts talents, which would serve him in films like…
2.) Demolition Man (1993)
It would be pretty difficult to leave this film out, being that Snipes and Stallone will be appearing on screen again. How could you not think of this movie? The character of Nino Brown from the film New Jack City (1991) was one of Snipes’ more serious villain characters. The role would also earn Snipes his first MTV Movie Award nomination for Best Villain. Two years later, Snipes would square off against Sylvester Stallone as Simon Phoenix, “The 21st Century’s Most Ruthless Criminal”. It is clear that Snipes is having much more fun reveling in the villainous and violent nature of Simon Phoenix, a role which earned Snipes a second MTV Movie Award nomination for Best Villain.
1.) The Art of War (2000)
Regardless of opinions of the film itself, it is undeniable that this is a very strong attempt at an African-American James Bond type character, which took its premise much more seriously. Here, Snipes plays Neil Shaw an operative for the United Nations who is trying to find out who killed the Chinese Ambassador, while protecting the interpreter who the opposing forces want dead. The deeper he goes, he discovers much more than he could have imagined. Snipes displays his brand of cool, while kicking, shooting and stealth-ing his way to success. It’s not the best spy thriller ever made, but it sure is an entertaining one.
Worst Film: The Art of War II: Betrayal (2008)
When a film is made straight-to-DVD, that should tell you something. Not that all straight-to-DVD flicks are bad, it’s just that you see the disparity in the level of quality between such a film and one released in theaters. Even bad theater releases seem generally better than anything sent straight-to-DVD. The Art of War II: Betrayal is no exception. Though Snipes does have some good direct-to-DVD releases such as Unstoppable (2004) and The Detonator (2006), the fact that Betrayal was even made is disappointing given how much better the original is. The issue is not so much Snipes as he does what he does best here in his return as Neil Shaw. The problem lies more so in the writing. It just does not match up with what preceded it and given that, it’s understandable why this film never made it to theaters and presumably, why Snipes did not return for the third film in the series, which also never made it to theaters, but was better reviewed.
Catch Wesley Snipes in action again with the Expendables on Friday, August 15.