Python Island (2022)

Rating: C-

Dir: Dicai Zhang
Star: Bai Na Ri Su, Mire Zai, Tan Jimin, Dongfeng Yue

“This is why you don’t disturb snakes on Cannibal Island!” Well, I trust we’ve all learned a valuable lesson from that. This is not to be confused with Snake Island Python, though mixing them up would certainly be understandable. At least the off-shore landmass here is named after the human inhabitants, a tribe on whose territory a meteor crashed. This imbued the land, and subsequently its flora and fauna, with immortality. But it didn’t end well. For it turns out eating them gives humans a nasty dose of Mad Snake Disease, and the natives died out. Now, Big Pharma, in the shape of the oddly-named Linen Company, has arrived on Cannibal Island, hot on the trail of the secret of eternal life.

The scientist in charge is Lin Jiashu (Bai), and there’s history here, as a lengthy prologue informs us. Ten years earlier, when he was a kid, he ended up stranded on Cannibal Island, and the resulting rescue expedition resulted in his mother’s death. Jaishu brought back a rare golden silver snake, but the rest of the village was not happy, forcing him to release it into the wild. Now, he’s a researcher for Big Pharma: Boss Fay (Tan) has brought him on the mission, along with her daughter Lily (Zai), and the crooked henchman Zhao (Yue). He is interested only in personal gain, rather than the ecological sensitivities – “Be kind to all animals,” we are told on multiple occasions – of Jaishu and Lily.

It does seem a rather one-sided philosophy, since everything on the island is trying to kill and/or eat the expedition. In particular, the energetic plants which fly through the air like floral versions of the flying guillotine, and as the film’s title suggests, if not the island’s name, the reptilian inhabitants. However, it feels as if this gets bogged down in considerably too much bickering among the party, when you feel they should be coming together, against the threats posed by nature. There is a kinda nice side-plot about Jiashu re-uniting with the snake he released a decade previously, who is now considerably larger (top), yet still remembers his owner fondly. Overall though, there’s too much talking and infighting for this to be entertaining. It’s mostly dull.

I was impressed by some of the sets and backdrops, which appear more solid and physical than in a lot of the genre. Most of Boss Fay’s bodyguards could have strayed in from a Robert Palmer video too – well, except for the crossbows with which they are armed. Don’t recall those in Addicted to Love. These are all very peripheral pleasures though, and the film falls considerably short on the mayhem to which we have become accustomed. Despite a more amusing tag-line than normal – “Prepare for the hiss of death” – a more accurate one would be “Prepare for the zzzz’s of boredom,” because I think I may have dozed off for a little bit in the middle of this.

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