Thursday, February 16, 2006

Snipes Takes The Biscuit

What happened to Wesley Snipes?

I ask this as the latest of his recent series of straight-to-video action films comes down the pipeline. The Detonator, indeed.

He used to be a major movie star in America - so big that sometimes the poster just called him 'Wesley'.

Or 'Snipes'.

You can hear the movie trailer announcer guy now, can't you?

Sure, he made a bunch of dodgy, 89-minute-long meathead vehicles like Drop Zone and Passenger 57, but he was also in highly-regarded films like Jungle Fever and White Men Can't Jump. He was even the star of his own action movie franchise - the Blade series (the first one of which I found very entertaining).

But all of the sudden something happened to his career - in the last year and a half, no less than 6 Wesley Snipes films have gone the straight-to-video route, bearing such unmemorable titles as 7 Seconds, The Marksman, and, ironically enough, Unstoppable.

Where did it all go wrong? In 1998, when he made the unnecessary sequel to The Fugitive, U.S. Marshals? The filmed-in-Montreal 'thriller' The Art of War? The second Blade film? The third Blade film, where he was demoted to co-star alongside Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds? (He subsequently sued New Line, the studio, because the script sucked...not sure how that worked out for him...)

Most of his direct-to-video work are interchangable action films where, according to the box copy, the fate of thousands (nations, even) rest in his hands. These films are usually shot in Eastern Europe, where perhaps they even get a theatrical release. But I think once movie stars make a bunch of straight to video films they will find it hard to get back their former box office mojo in America. I think a general moviegoing audience would just assume the star had retired, and snobs like me will just assume if a movie with a big star in it went directly off to Blockbuster that it's not worth seeing.

I'm not particualrly curious about viewing anything from Snipes' run of DTV junk, as opposed to Steven Seagal, who has been just as prolific as of late (I'm planning a weekend of renting six of those new Seagals and blissing out on hours and hours of greasy-ponytailed histrionics with eerily similar plots). But I do find Snipes' circumstance interesting; I just can't remember when such a name actor's career took a nose-dive so quickly and yet his output somehow increased at the same time.

ITEM! As a post-script of tragic inevitability, I read that Snipes and fellow DTV workhorse Jean-Claude Van Damme are going to be working together on a direct-to-video film called Hard Corps - check out this synopsis from 'Production Weekly':

"Van Damme will be playing battle-hardened combat veteran Patrick Sauvage, who has just spent the last three years fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Sauvage is hired to be a bodyguard to a former World Heavyweight Boxing champion. The boxer has run afoul of a dangerous Rap Music Mogul, and because of that he needs some serious protection. Van Damme is tasked with assembling a team of combat vets - "The Hard Corps" - to guard the boxer and his family. But interpersonal complications arise when the boxer suspects that his sister may be falling in love with his new bodyguard.

Production is scheduled to start early next month in British Columbia, before moving to Romania."

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