Big Snake King (2022)

Rating: C+

Dir: Minger Guo
Star: Luo Li Qun, Vanessa Zhao, Chunyu Shan Shan, Gao Sheng Yu

First question: is it Big Snake King or Big King Snake? The IMDb goes with the former, but Tubi takes the latter approach. I lean to the former, since it matches the poster (below), and whatever kind it might be, it is very clearly not a king snake. The original Chinese title is no help, being 大蛇王, which Google translates as “great king”. Next, an observation. I had to suppress a childish laugh at the director’s name. He would not have had a fun time at school in Scotland, where calling someone a “minger”, was not exactly a compliment, being a statement that their personal hygiene was deficient. 

I need to pad out the review with this kind of mindless chit-chat, largely due to reasons of incomprehensibility. For the subs here are terrible. It’s a real throwback to nineties Hong Kong movies, where the English subs were allegedly a legal requirement, but with no mention of quality. This one includes such opaque statements as, “Still dead duck mouth hard.” Explanations by email to the usual address, please. So if I appear vague on the plot details… it’s because I am vague on the plot details. The hero is Cheng Zhou (Luo), the son of a high-ranking officer, but a bit of a rogue. He pretends to be a Taoist priest, going from village to village carrying out fake ceremonies with his fat sidekick. 

However, his latest destination has a real problem. A family of giant snakes, released by a mining operation are terrorising the area. The locals have even gone so far as to offer up child sacrifices to try and placate the monsters, rather than shutting down their business. This is too much, even for our hero’s lax moral standards, and he teams up with Ming Yue (Zhao), daughter of a village elder, to stop the killing on both sides. Fortunately, they both have real skills. She trained at the Legolas School of Archery, and as we see at the beginning as he takes out one of the enormous snakes, Cheng Zhou can turn himself into a human flamethrower (top). It’s genuinely impressive, and the action here is above average, aided by slick camerawork. 

The other moment which stood out was at the end, where we get to see events from the snake’s point of view. Their anger seems entirely righteous and understandable. While there is often an ecological message in these films, we rarely get the monster’s perspective and it’s quite striking. The problems are the scenes in between, which are too chatty and confusing (no doubt partly due to the bad subtitling), with flashbacks of questionable value. Perhaps with a better presentation, this would have been a top-shelf entry into the genre. As is, the grade above perhaps errs on the charitable side, because it may not be the film-makers’ fault. There was still certainly enough entertainment here to confirm their talents.

This review is part of our feature, When Chinese Animals Attack.