SnakeEater (1989)

When we first meet renegade cop Jack “Soldier” Kelly (Lorenzo Lamas, Body Rock), he’s lounging with his sunglasses on inside an abandoned building, tossing playing cards, singing “Kumbaya” and improvising a bit about death by masturbation. He’s on a drug stakeout. He’s an ex-Marine. He’s “some kind of nutcase.” He’s the SnakeEater, and he’s got the T-shirt and belt buckle to prove it.

To pick a nit, he’s never called SnakeEater; everyone refers to him as “Soldier,” but a title like that is hardly the stuff of direct-to-video gold. As Lamas’ long-running gig as Lance Cumson (!) on TV’s Falcon Crest was coming to an end, the Canadian-financed SnakeEater was his attempt at breaking out on the big screen. You remember the lines snaking around the block, right? No?

The rather straightforward story puts Soldier on the hunt for his missing teen sister, Jennifer (Cheryl Jeans, an IMDb one-timer). She’s been kidnapped from a rented houseboat by an inbred country clan led by Junior (Robert Scott, Just the Way You Are), who kills her parents and sets the watercraft on fire before taking Jennifer to their rickety rape shack. Using a motorboat that’s been pimped out with parts of his beloved Harley, Soldier pulls into their neck of the swamp, sets some traps, shaves his face with a Bowie knife and Rambos up for revenge. Lamas is credited as having done his own stunts; his hair is not.

Helmed by George Erschbamer (The Incredible Adventures of Marco Polo on His Journeys to the Ends of the Earth), the film is bookended with a gag of a hobo asking a cop named Lou (former NFL Miami Dolphin and American Gladiators host Larry Csonka) for a cup of coffee, and Lou gives him a fresh cup of piping-hot urine. It’s also worth noting that SnakeEater contains an epilogue in which Soldier outsmarts an arsonist named Torchy (Ron Palillo, aka Horshack of TV’s Welcome Back, Kotter) with little more than a condom and a candle. Those objects are not important; that they’re setting up Torchy’s return for the immediate sequel, SnakeEater II: The Drug Buster, is. Therefore, the end-credits tradition of Marvel Cinematic Universe has the genius of Lorenzo Lamas to thank for the idea.

While we’re on the subject of genius, be sure to stick around for the thoroughly ’80s power ballad of a theme song, with plot-recapping and soul-searching lyrics like “Soldier, where’s your sister / Can you hear her helpless cries / The only light to guide you now / Is the fire in your eyes.” —Rod Lott

Get it at Amazon.

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