Snake Eyes review by Tom Blain

Former film school prodigy Brian DePalma has always been an enigma. He is a master of trick shots, a student of film history (as noted by his several film references), a often creates very memorable images that look good on a highlight reel. But his films are often frustrating in that he puts together many cleaver moments surrounded by a non-cohesive story. He should be creating masterpieces with his talent, but what we get are masterful pieces and a mediocre movie. While watching the opening of Snake Eyes, I thought my views on DePalma had finally shifted to admiration. But that didnt last long.

Snake Eyes opens in Atlantic City during fight night. Rick Santoro (Nicolas Cage who doesnt know the meaning of the word subdued) is a somewhat crooked cop who has a front row seat and a never ending stream of adrenaline. We are taken on a sexy ride through the fight hall (seemingly uncut) to meet the characters: boxing commentator Lou Logan (Kevin Dunn), Santoros friend Commander Kevin Dunne (Gary Sinese) who is supposed to guard the Secretary of State (Stan Shaw), the boxers and trainers, a bookie, etc. When Santoro finally sits down to watch the match, a number of things go wrong. Dunne leaves his mark, a mysterious woman sits next to the Secretary of State and all of a sudden bullets fly.

The opening scene is a masterpiece that nearly gets ruined by Nic Cages over the top, but necessary performance. Its necessary because he brings himself to the foreground and puts vital clues safely in the background. He traverses through the back rooms and hallways of the arena, slowly introducing characters and giving snippets of clues that are used later to solve the crime. Those moments that were opened in the background, are later brought to the foreground in a confusing investigation of the Secretary of States murder. DePalmas work was highly impressive for the firsts half of the movie. The opening scene was on the same level as Touch of Evil and The Player.

At its best Snake Eyes is reminiscent of great old 40s noir. DePalmas opening sequence is sliced and diced to reveal hidden clues of how the murder unfolded. DePalma uses some interesting 1st person perspective shots to reveal more about what each character had seen. For about an hour, Snake Eyes sucks you into its tightly woven conspiracy. Despite his overacting, Cages character is the perfect hard boiled detective: A little tough, a little dirty, and streetwise. He picks apart the stories in order to get closer to the truth. And I like the constant theme of observation. With all the cameras at the stadium, the crime is under constant review. No one is safe from the eye in the sky. I thought I was watching a great movie

that is until the actual murder mystery was solved an hour too early. There is a real problem with a film noir and murder mystery when the audience knows the answer to riddle a whole hour before the detective. If there is one thing De Palma should have learned its that the narrative knowledge of the audience should be less than or equal to that of the detective. For example The Usual Suspects kept you guessing til the last scene. The Big Sleep constantly kept the audience confused. But Snake Eyes blew the big secret and still had an hour left. Tragic. This shifts the murder mystery motif into a crime drama.

Whats worse is that even as the crime drama its very average and at times far-fetched. Lt. Dunne (Gary Sinese) walks around like the T-1000 from Terminator 2 popping caps left and right. Ricky Santoro (Nic Cage), screams and yells like an idiot as he must learn to take the moral route and put corruption aside. The ending is almost ridiculous and goes 5-10 minutes into a ridiculous post-story scene talking about how the whole conspiracy changed Rickys life. Once again DePalma teases us with beautiful camera work, and gives us an average movie. I would highly recommend checking it out just to see the first 40 or so minutes. After that, dont expect too much.




6 out of 10 Jackasses
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