Wesley Snipes is officially making his post-prison film debut in The Expendables 3.
Snipes was released from prison in 2013 after serving three years for tax evasion. The new film, which stars legendary Hollywood heavyweights like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, is in line with Snipes’ most recent string of action films. It’s a fast-paced shoot ‘em up flick with lots of explosions and macho one-liners from its middle-aged stars.
Black audiences have been instrumental in Snipes’s career. Some of his earliest critically acclaimed roles were in films starring and specifically marketed to black people. There were films like Mo’ Betta Blues, Jungle Fever, Waiting to Exhale, Sugar Hill and of course his now famous turn as Nino Brown in New Jack City. “This is the American way.”
Over the years, Snipes has veered more into action territory as opposed to focusing on urban dramas with all-black casts.
His Blade trilogy, Passenger 57 and Murder at 1600 are examples of that shift. But the Bronx-born thespian has always had an interesting mix of roles.
His first film role was in the hilarious 1986 football comedy Wildcats which featured Goldie Hawn and his future White Men Can’t Jump co-star Woody Harrelson.
And of course we can’t forget his role in Michael Jackson’s extended version of the “Bad” video.
The Expendables film series has proven to be a financial success (if not a critical one), so hopefully the latest installment can get Snipes back into the Hollywood machine and get it to churn out roles for him. Action movies are great, but surely audiences (especially black audiences) want to see Snipes flex those dramatic muscles instead of just physical ones.
He’s had a number of roles where he’s been a shady drug dealer type, but even within the confines of such characters, he’s always managed to add layers that make the character if not quite likable, then at least more three-dimensional.
For instance, New Jack City’s Nino Brown was a heartless, coke snorting sociopath, and yet the character did speak the truth in court towards the end of the film about how people like him come to exist.
Snipes’s starring role as the blue-collar love interest in the made-for-TV Disappearing Acts was a glorious display of his talents and depth. Over this past year, several films that starred majority black casts have “crossed over,” so to speak, into mainstream superstardom.
The hope is that such interest will carry over and lead to more black people in decision-making roles in the movie industry and therefore be able to offer meaningful, diverse roles to actors like Snipes who have the acting chops to go beyond playing just drug dealers, slaves and hood lotharios.
What kind of roles would you like to see Snipes get now that he’s a free man? What is your favorite Snipes film?