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Snakes in Movies
Fire Down Below (1997)
Spoiler Alert !

Some of these pictures and descriptions may give away plot details that you might not want to know before watching the film.
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This is a Steven Seagal action movie that's great for a guilty pleasure when you just want to watch a superhuman martial artist beat up a lot of evil rich men while he defends a bunch of helpless and exploited poor people. And who doesn't need to see that once in a while? Segal kicks the bad guys' butts again and again with fists, sticks, guns, cars, and even toxic waste, but he never gets hit or shot even once. He always wears a big long coat that hides his body so you can never tell if he's a muscular action star or if he's just fat and out of shape and making use of movie illusions to make it look like he's a great fighter. And there are plenty of the kind of memorable wise-crack lines that we expect from action movies nowadays to keep you groaning.

Seagal is Jack Taggart, an Environmental Protection Agency agent who is sent to a rural Kentucky town in the Appalachian Mountains to find the criminals who are dumping toxic waste. He works undercover as a carpenter making free repairs for the members of a small church, and lives in a small room next to the church. Compared to the rest of the townspeople he stands out like a sore thumb in his black leather jackets and long ponytail, and it doesn't take long for the despicable coal company and casino owner (Kris Kristofferson) who also makes millions of dollars dumping toxic waste into an old mine for his clients, to figure out that Seagal is a Federal agent. Kristofferson tells his hired goons to force Seagal to leave town. When he refuses, the goons return to his room at the church one night and put some rattlesnakes in his window. Seagal finds the snakes, and when they strike out at him, he grabs each snake by the neck, one in each hand. Yeah, he's that fast. (There are plenty of Steven Seagal jokes online similar to the Chuck Norris joke meme.) I expected Seagal to do something equally manly next, like bite their heads off or skin them alive with his teeth, but no such luck. He just puts them one by one out the window and releases them. He's an EPA agent so he has to show that he respects the environment and all living things - except, of course, evil rich guys - those he swats like flies. But the unintended consequence of his mercy is that now there are two dangerous rattlesnakes loose on the church property waiting for some innocent church lady to step on them next Sunday. Regardless of that lack of foresight, you have to like a mean superhuman killing-machine who doesn't have the typical knee-jerk reaction of a movie character to kill any and every rattlesnake in sight.

In the next scene we see that Seagal has put a bunch of rattlesnakes (and a couple of non-venomous snakes - because all snakes are deadly, right?) in the pickup truck of the same two goons who left the rattlesnakes in his room. (This makes me wonder where he got the snakes, especially since he released the others. They must simply grow on trees in that part of the country.) The two guys freak out hilariously when they see the snakes in their truck, and they jump out of the still-moving truck which then crashes into a police car, which makes the scene even funnier because, like everybody in the town, the police are also on the villian Kristofferson's payroll.

Also of interest are all the country singers in the movie, most of whom play a song or two. (Seagal even plays the guitar with a dance band.) Besides Kris Kristofferson, we see Levon Helm, Travis Tritt, Marty Stuart, Peggy and Patsy Lynn, and others, and there are several songs co-written by Seagal, including some with lyrics mentioning snakes, the best being "Snake" sung by Taj Mahal, and also an old John Prine song with a lyric about the air smelling like snakes. (I know that smell.) You can watch Seagal's revenge snake scene with the truck crash on YouTube with the song "Snake" sung in the background.

The rattlesnakes we see are mostly Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes, the Hollywood standby, but they also slipped in a quick shot of a Timber Rattlesnake and possibly a Red-diamond and a speckled rattlesnake in the pickup truck, and there are also a Corn Snake snake and a black snake I can't identify on the floor of the truck, which might be an indigo snake.