snakemongooseThe Need To Win
Snake and Mongoose
Stars: Jesse Williams, Richard Blake, Noah Wyle, Tim Blake Nelson, Ian Ziering, John Heard, Fred Dryer and Ashley Hinshaw
Director:  Wayne Holloway
Scriptwriters:  Wayne Holloway and Alan Paradise
Composer: Gary Barlough
Entertainment Universe/Film Star Partners
Rating: PG 13
Running Length: 100 minutes
“Snake and Mongoose” are the nick names given to two drag strip racers who began their respective careers in the late 1950’s. Drag strip racing is going as fast as you can down a prescribed track, two racers side by side, and the design of the cars varies as the years pass and new models come out. The driver is literally sitting on an open flame and hopes to make it to the end of the road intact. This is different than a circular NASCAR track. “Snake” is Don Prudomme (Jesse Williams from “Grey’s Anatomy”) and “Mongoose” is Tom McEwen (Richard Blake from “Dragonball: Evolution”). The men were competitive friends since their youth and grew into the drag strip racing sport together.
What makes this story interesting is that the men, especially Tom, try to earn money by capitalizing on a toy craze, that of “hot wheels.” By approaching Mattel, the giant toy maker, with a plan for advertising on their cars and selling hot wheels at the tracks, the men promoted their sport and made money for themselves and for Mattel. 
We follow their careers through the years and see that Don “The Snake” was a consistent winner, while Tom “The Mongoose” was usually second place. As one friend says in the film, “Don has to win.” Tom, doesn't, and ends up being a family man and the heartbreaks that come with that. Family life doesn't always win where the obsession for winning is first and wife and kids second and third. This can happen in any sport and life on the road can have temptations, too.
The story is strictly about the friendship/rivalry between the two men and we don't get to know who the other competitors were at the time. It takes a great deal of money to build those cars from a Plymouth to a Funny Car to something that resembles a horizontal steeple on wheels and goes 220 miles per hour. Where the driver sits is called a cage and you wonder how the men survive some of the crashes that are shown. An astronaut can eject from his ship, but a racer just hopes to kind of tumble out of a burning car. Racing footage is well integrated into the story.  As far as safety concerns, there were several instances of men working on car motors where the hood and/or chassis of the car was elevated (by what, I couldn't tell) many feet above the lower frame and children were allowed to come very near and look at the motor. The “what if anything fell” lingered in the air. 
Acting is fairly good with the friendship/rivalry between the men clearly shown by Williams and Blake, plus the out-going nature of McEwen as he concocts financial deals and meets fans. There is so much story packed into the film, it would have made a better mini-series for television. The audience goes from year to year, race to race, one driver is getting married and in another scene, already has three children and we see the kids when they are pre-teen. Sports footage is fine and certainly adds to the film, especially seeing “Wide World of Sports” again, but no Jim McKay. Families who are car sports fans will enjoy the history of drag racing, especially if they had “hot wheels.”
Copyright 2013 Marie Asner
For more sports film reviews, see the following:
Fast and Furious
Dust to Glory