Actors are always saying they’d “kill for a part.” Well, when the gangster/thespians in Amos Poe’s would-be black comedy “Frogs for Snakes” say it, they mean it. Eva (Barbara Hershey), is a talented New York City actress/waitress who’s reached burnout with acting’s constant struggle. She also moonlights as her mob boss ex-husband Big Al Santana’s “collector,” using her considerable acting skills to bluff her way into various debtors’ lairs and coercing the deadbeats to pay up with an extremely persuasive pistol plug in the foot. Now, Big Al (Robbie Coltrane) is a local crime lord whose clout seems to be in direct proportion to his impressive belt size… and his passion for the theater. In fact, the film’s big gag is that EVERYONE in Big Al’s gang is really a struggling actor. Apparently, shooting people as a day job is far more lucrative than, say, flipping burgers. As for the boss, he encourages his gang’s unorthodox behavior by underwriting off-Broadway plays and serving as the de facto Casting Director… which literally sets up much murderous competition for juicy roles. Just ask Eva’s boyfriend Zip (John Leguizamo) who had a part in one of Big Al’s plays… until one of Al’s thugs decided it was a part he would kill for… with the boss’ blessing. This seals it for Eva. She wants out. But before she can get away, she finds herself drawn into a hodgepodge of loosely connected misadventures arising from Big Al’s shady past and the ever-present, almost Darwinian jockeying for roles in Big Al’s upcoming production of “American Buffalo.”
“Frogs for Snakes” – the title comes from a 1957 Sonny Boy Williams song, but don’t ask me how it relates to this film – is a one-joke pony that pales REAL fast. I’m not sure what possessed Poe to think he could mix Tarantino with a dark screwball comedy, but that sure seems to be what he’s attempting. Despite a chuckle here and there and entertaining turns by a cast full of familiar faces, it just doesn’t work; done in by its overburdened and unfocused storyline. Forget its abundant blood and guts, the vibrant, retro, pulpy look, and the strategically sprinkled skin shots. What “Frogs for Snakes” would kill for is a real plot.