When I first saw the post on Wendell’s blog about the Acting Black Blogathon, somehow my first inclination is to write about Wesley Snipes.
I know there are a ton of other great Black actors I admire – Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Laurence Fishburne, Don Cheadle, Samuel L. Jackson, etc. but I watched an interview w/ Mr. Snipes recently, when he was promoting his NBC show The Player (which I still might watch just for Snipes), and I was struck by how affable, charismatic and humble he is. Thankfully he got a second leash on his career after being imprisoned for tax fraud (he was sentenced on April 24, 2008) and he came back a wiser man instead of being a bitter recluse.
It reminded me how much I enjoyed watching him as an actor. He may not be an Oscar caliber performer like Denzel but he’s got immense charisma. Though he’s mostly known for his action movies, I actually like him in dramatic roles as well, which I think he should do more of. In fact, I think he’s typecast for being the tough-guy-with-a-heart but I think he’s capable for gfLooking at his resume, there are some films of his I still need to see, i.e. The Fan, The Art of War, Unstoppable, and his most recent, Chi-Raq by Spike Lee. His career definitely peaked in the 90s, hence most of my fave movies of his are from that decade.
So here are five of my favorite Wesley Snipes roles that I’ve seen so far:
1. Blade (1998)
Before Kate Beckinsale became a sexy vampire warrior in Underworld and those emo, sparkly Twilight vampires that reportedly Snipes himself wanted to hunt down, we’ve got an uber cool, genuinely bad ass vampire hybrid. I mean, even his moniker alone sounds cool and dangerous. Deadpool is definitely NOT the first R-rated comic-book movie out there, and I remember this movie was filled w/ some bloody action scenes, just what one would expect from a vampire hunter movie. I love the look of Blade here, his uniform, his sunglasses, even his ride (1968 Dodge Charger). But it’s Snipes as the half human/half bloodsucker who’s the star here, oozing such swagger and quiet grace as the unlikely hero worth rooting for. I also like Kris Kristofferson as his mentor, who some reviewers mentioned as having that Obi-Wan quality. I for one would love to see Blade 4 at some point. Heck, why not? Especially since R-rated comic-book flicks are back in fashion again now.
2. Waiting to Exhale (1995)
For some reason his role wasn’t credited in the film, but I always remember Snipes in a brief role as James Wheeler. From the moment he appeared at a bar, approaching Angela Bassett’s character who just went through a divorce, I immediately like his character. I wish he’d do more dramatic films, even a romantic drama, as he certainly can pull off the romantic hero role. I love this film by Forest Whitaker, which I’ve rewatched a few times. Some of my fave roles are the ones of Snipes and Bassett. There’s a scene of them in a hotel room. “Lets make tonight beautiful” Snipes’ character said, which would’ve been ultra cheesy in a Nicholas Sparks’ movie, but here it’s poignant because it wasn’t sexual. It was two people who’ve been through some tough times (divorce, deceased spouse) who found a soulful connection. It was a genuinely intimate moment that’s rarely seen in cinema, it still moved me to this day.
3. Rising Sun (1993)
It’s been ages since I saw this but I remember really liking this thriller based on Michael Crichton’s novel. In fact, I might give it a rewatch at some point. I like the pairing of him w/ Sean Connery as the Japanese expert, which is funny when I think about it as he ludicrously tried to pass as a Japanese in the Bond movie You Only Live Twice. Some people say there’s an awkward chemistry between these two, but I think the fact that they had such different background, it’s to be expected and works well as a cultural thriller. It’s not quite a buddy-cop type movie, but the interplay between Snipes and Connery are more fun to watch than the action. I think Snipes held his own against his older & wiser co-star. Both are immensely watchable, and the mystery aspect was pretty intriguing.
4. Passenger 57 (1992)
I read this article about actors who deserve a Taken-style comeback and it included Mr. Snipes. Heck, I think Snipes was one of the action stars who popularized the reluctant hero roles, those who minded their own business but ended up being dragged into some violent predicaments.
I LOVE Snipes as John Cutter, a hard-working anti-terrorist agent who boarded a plane with an international terrorist under FBI custody. I’m sure Liam Neeson’s Non-Stop is partly inspired by this w/ the action hero playing an air marshal no less. It’s interesting that because of the color of his skin, he’s not immediately believed to be the good guy who’s trying to save everyone. I think that adds a certain an intriguing edge than if the role were to be played by white action stars like Bruce Willis, Steven Seagal, etc. Bruce Payne is pretty darn scary too as the villain, he reminds me a bit of Hans Gruber here and of course he’s also a Brit.
5. Demolition Man (1993)
Snipes has played a fair share of good guys and law enforcement types, so it’s nice to see him relishing at being bad. With platinum blond Afro & half blue eyes no less! He played Simon Phoenix, a convicted crime lord who’s revived for a parole hearing well into the 21st century. Of course he immediately resumes his murderous rampage, with no one to stop him, except Sly Stallone of course, who else? Sandra Bullock is quite memorable here too in one of her earlier action roles. Yes this is a pretty cheesy action flick of the 90s but heck I enjoyed it, and I still remember that epic death scene at the end! Liquid nitrogen anyone? Snipes was deliciously over the top here with his manic energy. It’s definitely one of the most fun 90’s sci-fi action flicks.
So what’s YOUR favorite Wesley Snipes’ role(s)?