Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How did these guys get DTV careers?... Wesley Snipes

CASE STUDY 2: Wesley Snipes
Where was he? Like Kilmer, Snipes had a golden run of either commercial or critical hits in the late 80s/early 90s beginning with the baseball comedy Major League. Spike Lee gave him some great roles in Mo' Better Blues and Jungle Fever. His first action hero role came in 1992 with Passenger 57, a rather uninspired spin on the Die Hard scenario set on a plane, slightly elevated by Snipes charismatic performance (but then again, anyone acting opposite Liz Hurley usually looks good). The following year, he changed tack again and played the villain Simon Phoenix opposite Sylvester Stallone in Demolition Man (a part Sly wanted Jackie Chan to play). Then came the mid-90s, a bit of wilderness for Snipes with him taking high profile leading parts in a lot of flops such as Drop Zone and The Money Train.

What film killed his career? Now this is a little tricky but I'm going to say that Blade (1998) killed his career. Now I know what you're going to say, Blade was a great film. You're right it was pretty good and it did revive his fortunes, propelling him to the Hollywood A-list again. The problem I have is he relied on the success of the Blade series to carry his career. He made no effort to choose diverse roles like he did in the early years. And after Blade Trinity finished the series (mostly down to David Goyer's leaden direction) suddenly he was stuck playing the hero in action thrillers again and again. Now I'm not going to say that Snipes isn't good at action films but he's an actor first. He's not like Van Damme or Dolph Lundgren, who don't really have any actual acting credentials, he's starred in good films! Legitimate good films, not just 'crap good' films.

Where is he now? In jail. For tax evasion. Since Blade Trinity bombed at the box office he's been slumming in a series of interchangeable generic action films (The Marksman, The Detonator, The Contractor), usually shot in Eastern Europe that have all gone direct to DVD. One anomaly in his post-Blade Trinity career was Brooklyn's Finest, directed by Antoine Fuqua, which saw him take a supporting role and though the movie wasn't massively success it at least got him back in the cinema again. When he comes out of prison it's uncertain if he can put his career back on track. Stranger things have happened. Just look at Mickey Rourke. Rumours suggest though that he's going to take a role in The Expendables 2 which I think would be a mistake, again forcing people to see him only as an action star.

Fun fact: Wesley Snipes used to run a bodyguard service called the Royal Guard of Amen-Ra (Seriously, I'm not kidding).

Next time: Christian Slater

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