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ANACONDAS: THE HUNT FOR THE BLOOD ORCHID (director: Dwight H. Little; screenwriters: John Clafin/Daniel Zelman/Michael Miner/Ed Neumeier/based on a story by Hans Bauer, Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr.; cinematographer: Stephen F. Windon; editor: Marcus D’Arcy; music: Nerida Tyson-Chew; cast: Johnny Messner (Bill Johnson), KaDee Strickland (Sam Rogers), Matthew Marsden (Dr. Jack Byron), Eugene Byrd (Cole Burris), Salli Richardson-Whitfield (Gail Stern), Morris Chestnut (Gordon Mitchell), Nicholas Gonzalez (Dr. Ben Douglas), Carl Yune (Tran), Andy Anderson (John Livingston); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Verna Harrah; Screen Gems; 2004)

“It’s a dumb pic, but it does what these type of escapist summer films are supposed to do–provide some silly thrills.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This action jungle B-film is limply directed by Dwight H. Little (“Halloween 4” and “Free Willy 2”). It’s the sequel to the 1997’s low camp Anaconda, but without the original cast (most were eaten by the man-eating snakes or should have been!). This Anaconda’s hardly appetizing theme involves a NYC based giant pharmaceutical firm backing a research expedition in the wilds of Borneo to bring back the rare blood orchids whose enzymes are looked upon as being able to prolong life with fountain-of-youth possibilities, that is subject to scientific tests back in the lab. The blood orchids can only be found in that one jungle spot in Borneo, where the anacondas happen to nest.

The freelance research scientists, business types and head rep of the firm have less than a week to bring back the flowers before they stop blooming and won’t appear again for another seven years. The scheming mad Brit scientist heading the mission, Dr. Jack Byron (Matthew Marsden), dreams of being a billionaire, his backer at the firm Gordon Mitchell (Morris Chestnut) has also taken a bite out of corporate greed, Sam Rogers (KaDee Strickland) is Jack’s gutsy, attractive and bright assistant, Gail Stern (Salli Richardson-Whitfield) is the uptight bean counter rep of the drug company who doubts the mission and has a negative attitude, Cole Burris (Eugene Byrd) is the cowardly black homey computer whiz who dreams of sitting at a Knick game between Spike and Woody (as you might gather, he supplies the comedy), and Dr. Ben Douglas (Nicholas Gonzalez) is the lovesick medical doctor who thinks he can win Sam over with his heavy amorous gestures.

In Borneo, the expedition lands during the rainy season and no legitimate charter boat is willing to risk the dangerous trek down river. The expedition charters at an exorbitant cost a junk tub called the Bloody Mary, whose adventurous risk-taking gruff captain, the American expatriate and former Special Force member, Bill Johnson (Johnny Messner), and his cool Indonesian second mate Tran (Carl Yune) are game for this adventure.

What ensues is a guessing game of who gets eaten first by the giant snake. The dangers along the jungle river include 50-foot man-eating anacondas, alligators, a deadly spider, a boat journey down a waterfalls ala The African Queen, river sites that are not passable, a hike through the jungle where the anacondas mate and a key member of the expedition who is so taken with greed that he’s willing to kill anyone who stands in his way. There’s also a scene-stealing monkey around in case Cole’s attempt at comic-relief doesn’t play well in the jungle, which was the case.

There was no star power as in the original, so the filmmaker makes do without JLo and Jon Voight by revving up the action and having multiple bigger animatronic snakes instead of one snake as in the original. The only actor who came out of the jungle with nothing to be ashamed of was the ruggedly handsome Johnson. It’s not that his acting was any good, but he did have an action hero’s raspy-voice, a good jungle look in his tight fitting T-shirt and tattooed muscular arms.

It’s a dumb pic, but it does what these type of escapist summer films are supposed to do–provide some silly thrills.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”