I’ve never been the biggest fan of sports such as drag racing or the like. Therefore, the histories and rivalries of such a sport are lost on me. I actually didn’t know about James Hunt until I saw Rush back in 2013, that’s how out of touch with such people and events I am. It should go as no surprise then that I don’t usually watch sports-based films. I love them when they are done well, such as the aforementioned Rush or Rocky. Now I have seen Snake & Mongoose, which I had no idea what it was about until I saw it.
Snake and Mongoose follows the Drag Racing rivalry between Don Prudhomme – aka The Snake due to his quick driving reflexes – and Tom McEwen – aka Mongoose due to his inherit rivalry against Prudhomme. Set in the 1960’s, it tells the tales of how they raced each other, how they saw each other and how they both felt off the tracks as well. And how they both took the two animals, the natural enemies of each over, and applied them to their own situation.
The main reason I brought up my personal issues with sports films is because I do feel like I should take some responsibility for my own lack of enjoyment with this one. While I did find the characters and in some ways the history to be overall interesting, I just could not find the film as a whole as interesting or engaging as it would clearly like to be. As a film Snake & Mongoose is not a bad one. It does have some interesting moments in it. I did enjoy the two lead characters, and the subtle differences between them. Snake for example drives because he feels like he needs to – his life is to race and win, and he could very well loose his purpose and die if he did not drive. Whereas Mongoose sees it more as a career – he does still love racing and winning, but he’s more level-minded about it and sees the business side as being more important than Snake does. Elements like this do add to the film and do bring up some interesting conflicts.
The performances weren’t bad either, although they also didn’t stand out. They bring a decent amount of charisma and feel very natural in their actions and discussion. But there is something strange about what they say. I’m not sure if this is how they deliver their lines or if it’s a problem with the script but the dialogue does sometimes come off as preachy or trying to push some form of character-driven agenda. One scene for example features our characters discussing what it means to strive for a dream and what it means to be practical. It’s not a bad scene but the point is just hammered across it felt a little distracting because of it. There’s a scene with Tim Blake Nelson, who made me laugh – which was the intention – due to his fun delivery. This one worked because it demonstrated the art of showmanship that the sport revels in, and that it is even carried on behind the closed doors to an extent. Moments like this worked better than the overblown discussions of following a dream.
The only other stand out element was the use of real footage from drag racing. It was an interesting idea and it did give the film an almost documentary feel to it. This does conflict a little bit with the scenes where actors performed, as it feels like a different kind of film making taking place. Still, it was an interesting little experiment on the film makers part that could possibly be better incorporated into other such films.
Overall Snake & Mongoose was an interesting and fairly well-made film, with some nice cinematography and editing to boost it up. It just wasn’t for me. It already had an uphill battle with me, but I feel that people who tend to like this sort of film will thoroughly enjoy it. It’s an interesting look at a rivalry I certainly had no idea about before. And even if it hits you over the head with it, the message about dreams and practicality is a good one. Sit down and take it for a ride, you may find yourself enjoying the show.
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