The opening sequence in Zombieland: Double Tap include a passing Wesley Snipes joke, one that’s connected to the narrative premise. But there’s a deeper meaning as well, and it's relevant to actor Woody Harrelson's cinematic past. Here's the true meaning of Zombieland: Double Tap's Snipes reference.
Directed by Ruben Fleischer, Zombieland 2 picks up 10 years after the events depicted in Zombieland, the original 2009 film. Harrelson reprises his role as Tallahassee, a charismatic and hardened man who takes a tough love approach with his fellow band of survivors, Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin). Zombieland: Double Tap opens with the main characters taking out the undead on The White House lawn, a moment that sets up the film’s inciting incident and establishes the groundwork for the Snipes joke.
Harrelson and company temporarily live at The White House in Zombieland 2: Double Tap. In the first act, each of the main characters’ perspectives are highlighted, with Little Rock feeling out of place and wanting to hang out with people her own age. She takes off with sister Wichita, thus creating the film’s main conflict - Columbus feels disrespected and soon begins a romantic relationship, albeit somewhat reluctantly, with new character Madison (Zoey Deutch), the archetypal Dumb Blonde. Meanwhile, Tallahassee plays U.S. President in the Oval Office and looks over paperwork left behind by Barack Obama in 2009, the year when the zombie outbreak transpired. Tallahassee pardons the aforementioned Snipes, who - in real life - was about to be locked up in 2009.
In April 2008, Snipes was sentenced to three years in jail for tax evasion, and later served out his sentence from December 2010 to April 2013. So, in Fleischer’s zombie universe, Snipes was technically still a free man when the outbreak began. Tallahassee playfully clears the famous actor, who had previously spent the majority of the 2000s starring in direct-to-video action movies.
For a meta twist, Harrelson clears his co-star from the 1992 film White Men Can’t Jump, a comedy about basketball hustlers. Billy Hoyle (Harrelson) and Sidney Dean (Snipes) make money by essentially bending the rules, just like Tallahassee does in Zombieland 2. Harrelson and Snipes also co-starred in the 1995 film Money Train, a buddy cop movie that further created industry momentum for both actors. By 1998, Snipes landed the main role in Blade and reprised his role for Blade II. As for Harrelson, he maintained a steady career with smaller character roles, and then reached a new level with Zombieland, which released just as Snipes was experiencing a personal and professional decline. In Zombieland: Double Tap, Harrelson pays homage to his former co-star by signing a pardon.