Snake and Mongoose is an independent film showcasing the sport of drag racing and how it got to where it is. The film tells the too often untold story of the two Southern California drag racers that made the biggest different: Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen. The film uses actual footage from the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA).
Snake, excellently portrayed by Jesse Williams (Gray’s Anatomy and Cabin in the Woods), is living in his father’s shadow. Williams is consistent in his portrayal of Snake, pretty stability to the character and to the film. He paints cars with his father during the day, and at night he builds and races. He has the unique gift of knowing what to do with a car to improve it just by listening to the engine. Snake wants more out of life. He is searching for purpose.
Mongoose, portrayed by Richard Blake (Dragonball Evolution), is a husband and father of a growing family. Blake’s performance is shaky at best. During certain scenes, Blake gives a demanding performance, one that leaves the viewer wishing they had experienced in other scenes. He too is searching for more in life. He too is searching for purpose.
The two men are talking one evening about their dreams and aspirations for the sport. Mongoose looks up and sees the golden arches of McDonald’s in the sky. As if they are some prophetic sign from the heavens, the golden arches inspire the two men to think big.
While sitting at a table with his boys, Tom (Mongoose) gets an idea. His kids are playing with Hot Wheels. He gets Don (Snake) onboard, and they meet with the Mattel guy to pitch the idea. The Mattel guy goes for it, and Hot Wheels becomes the first ever sponsor in the racing enterprise. The set up was that Snake and Mongoose would race against each other. Each would have his car be sponsored by Hot Wheels. And each would have a Hot Wheel version of his car being sold to the public. It was a marketing masterpiece.
As the racing picked up and the marketing got bigger, Don’s life became to take shape. He found a steady girlfriend, whom he would later marry and have a family with. “I don’t think about it,” Don says, “I just drive.” Tom, on the other hand, faced a mountain of struggles and heartbreak.
Throughout the film, as Tom chases his purpose in life, his wife sees her vision of a family running away. She becomes very discouraged with Tom as he is gone all the time and because he is spending less and less time with his sons. “I though you’d change,” she yells at him, “This is your dream, not mine!” Tom sees himself working hard to provide for his family. But the racing world has seemed to consume his life.
The struggle with his wife affected not only his relationship with his sons, but also is racing. He began losing more races to Snake. “Trouble is,” Don would tell him, “you’re a loser. The racing . . .. Your wife . . ..” Harsh words for a harsh time in Tom’s life. Tom had reached a point where he was crashing and burning. Nothing anyone said would make him realize what was going on. Don’s words did not come from a mean and spiteful place, but from a deep loving and caring heart of a friend.
That is who these two men are. Like Jonathan and David in the Old Testament, they were the most unlikely of friends. Yet, they were. And they were better for it. They knew each other, cared for one another, and there to support one another.
The film has a smooth movement to its storytelling. It spans over a few decades of racing, but it does not, as some films do, make it choppy. There is no awkward “fast-forward” through years moments, which this viewer was grateful for.