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Snake Eyes

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Snake Eyes

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Gary Sinise
Director: Brian De Palma
Rated: R
RunTime: 99 Minutes
Release Date: August 1998
Genres: Suspense, Thriller

*Also starring: John Heard, Carla Gugino, Stan Shaw, Kevin Dunn, Michael Rispoli, Joel Fabiani, Luis Guzman, Mike Starr

Review by MrBrown
2 stars out of 4

_Snake_Eyes_ is less a description of the film it titles than the manner in which director Brian DePalma wields his camera--like a serpent, slithering its way through the halls and over the walls of an Atlantic City casino. The title takes its cue from the differences in people's visual perception from what really happens, and DePalma runs with the idea. A seamless 20-minute shot opens the film, following cop Rick Santoro (Nicolas Cage) through the labyrinthian walkways of the casino's arena before and during a championship boxing match. Later, there's a flashback where a subjective, point-of-view camera suddenly becomes objective without a jarring break. That's just one in a series of instances where DePalma uses a subjective camera to enable the audience to see through characters' eyes, which is a clever gimmick when assuming the fuzzy perspective of a woman who has lost her glasses. Then there's the use of a split screen to document simultaneous action, a trick DePalma used to great effect in _Dressed_to_Kill_.

I tend to meet a director's decision to juice up the visuals with a raised eyebrow, for it generally signifies that he or she is trying to distract the audience from a problematic script. And that is certainly the case with _Snake_Eyes_, a pro forma conspiracy whodunit written by David Koepp from a story he devised with DePalma. The U.S. Secretary of Defense is assassinated during a boxing match, and out to solve the crime is Santoro, along with best friend Kevin Dunne (Gary Sinise, in a role originally pegged for Will Smith), a Navy commander who was in charge of security. Somehow figuring into the mystery is a mysterious blonde-wigged woman (Carla Gugino) who took a seat in front of the Secretary seconds before the shooting and caught a bullet herself.

DePalma guides the audience through overlapping flashbacks and a flurry of plot points with a rapidly-paced yet clear-eyed finesse. But craftsmanship is all anyone will get a sense of, from the direction to the strong acting by Sinise and especially Cage, who adds another oddball characterization to his resume with the fast-talking, Hawaiian shirt-wearing, morally questionable Santoro. The twists are thoroughly predictable, but even if any tension and suspense were generated, it would all be squandered by the film's contrived fizzle of an anticlimax, which is not only disappointing but makes little sense.

For all its metaphoric meanings, the title _Snake_Eyes_ is derived from a line of dialogue. One character tells another, "You have nothing. Snake eyes." With his bottomless bag of stylish visual tricks, DePalma does have "something" to offer in _Snake_Eyes_, but, ironically, it is that "something" that points up just how much "nothing" lies underneath.

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