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Snake Eyes

movie reviewvideo review out of 4

All-Reviews.com 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 Walter Frith
1½ stars out of 4

Brian De Palma will never be a truly great director. He's had over 20 years to prove himself and while some of his films are fluidly filmed and make for very interesting entertainment, the majority of his films are mediocre at best. De Palma likes to pay tribute to Alfred Hitchcock every time he sets out to make a film and likes to throw in as many macabre scenes as the script will allow. De Palma's use of repetition to make a point is often tedious and his use of slow motion is very tiresome at times. I loved 1987's 'The Untouchables' more for Sean Connery's Oscar winning performance and David Mamet's tense and classical script and while the baby carriage scene on the train station stairs worked to perfection, De Palma should have quit while he was ahead because he almost ruined the film by stretching out the rooftop climax scene beyond belief. How many times can you play a swelling music score and zoom in slowly on someone's eyes? 1976's 'Carrie' is a good film and has Oscar nominated performances from Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie but De Palma stretches out the scene at the prom after Carrie is crowned prom queen just a bit too long before the famous soaking in pig's blood. De Palma ruined 1983's 'Scarface' by allowing every second word in the film to be f***. De Palma's masterpiece (a term used loosely in his case) is 1980's 'Dressed to Kill'. That film had a truly eerie tone and genuine chills and despite some large plot holes, 1981's 'Blow Out' is a pretty good runner-up to 'Dressed to Kill'.

In 'Snake Eyes' Nicolas Cage is Rick Santoro, a mildly corrupt Atlantic City police officer attending a much hyped boxing match which is being filmed for television's pay per view format. The U.S. secretary of defence is in attendance at the fight and is guarded by standard secret service protection and is accompanied by Major Kevin Dunne (Gary Sinese) who also acts as a bodyguard. Distracted at the fight by a beautiful tart in a red dress, Sinese leaves his post and the secretary is shot and later dies in the hospital. The shooting causes pandemonium and the 14,000 people at the event are sealed in as the building is ordered shut. Central to the plot and a key player in the whole scenario is a nearsighted young woman named Julia Costello (Carla Gugino) who tries to flee the building after the assassination for a different reason than everyone else.

'Snake Eyes', if anything, makes one important point. In the age of electronic media, a political assassination cannot be concealed in a public place. Someone is bound to pick it up. No more public executions like the conspiracy (don't write me back saying there wasn't a conspiracy because I'll laugh in your face and you'll get a nasty response) that killed JFK. The perpetrators of that crime would be caught today if they tried that in public, either on film or videotape. I admire the film for that but De Palma's latest attempt at suspense is disappointing because the solution to the film is revealed too early and De Palma fails to find any sub text to make the second half as good as the first. The film falls apart after about 45 minutes and never picks itself back up.

Also, at a running time of only 98 minutes, the film resolves itself too quickly without a sense of academic depth. I often complain that films are too long but this one is too short. This is the kind of film that needs to be over two hours in length but only if the set and plot points can be expanded and they are not. 'Snake Eyes' was filmed largely in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and is set inside the boxing arena for 99% of its running time. Some necessary scenes were actually filmed in Atlantic City, New Jersey and oddly enough, another film, 1981's 'Atlantic City' with Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon combined Montreal and Atlantic City to tell its story in the famous U.S. city of the famous boardwalk.

Nicolas Cage is excellent in 'Snake Eyes' and Gary Sinese is a good character but a predictable one and doesn't take full advantage of the darker sides in his character's personality. The female characters are a throw away as they often are in De Palma's films and if Brian De Palma could use actors and story lines the same way he uses his camera, he might have an Oscar or two in his collection but for all the right reasons, De Palma has never even once been nominated for the Academy Award but he has been nominated 5 times for the Razzie award for the worst that the film industry has to offer. His peers are as unforgiving as his critics.

Copyright 2000 Walter Frith

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