I can never tell if I like Brian De Palma or not.
He throws quality films in your face all the time. But at the same time he’s challenging you to name what film he took certain elements of his films from. It’s like Quentin Tarantino without the really good dialogue.
In Snake Eyes De Palma succeeds through clever editing and by pitching a creative plot to his audience. His story about a crooked cop witnessing a political assassination at one of Atlantic City’s most prominent arenas/casinos/hotels during the biggest fight night of the year is certainly interesting. Even more intriguing is the fact that no one can leave the arena until the investigation is complete.
Nicolas Cage plays that crooked cop. Rick Santoro’s his name. Because of the most recent Republican presidential race I couldn’t hear anything but “Rick Santorum” when he said his name (which was oddly a good handful amount of times) and I’m angry as hell because of that. Fuck you Santorum.
Now Santoro is buddy buddy with Kevin Dunne (Gary Sinise), some kind of commander/chief/secret service dude who is in charge of protecting the secretary of defense at fight night. Together they try to solve the assassination of the secretary. It’s “twisting” plot and happenstance nature isn’t all that great, but whatever, it’ll do.
Cage once again dominates the film. I mean, he plays alongside Sinise, how hard could that be? It isn’t a freak out, flip out and lose control of your senses Cage Rage performance, but it certainly is a controlled madness by Cage, who punishes anyone in his way with a scathing hot performance of accentuated words and elevated speech patterns.
Now back to De Palma. His films are almost always interesting. Snake Eyes is no different. The film does hold your attention all the way through. Its editing is unique enough to separate it from other mid level films similar to this one. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be perfect. Its intriguing story is ruined by an atrocious and foreseeable plot early on in the movie and even more harmed by a stupid ending. That said, your interest level is maintained by De Palma’s ability to at least tell the story in a unique way. Editing prevails heavily in Snake Eyes.
What I didn’t buy was his use of the hurricane swarming around the locked down casino as an allegory for the storm brewing inside the building. Sure, it makes sense, but it was also the driving force behind John Huston’s classic film Key Largo. Humphrey Bogart v. Edward G. Robinson – a match up for the archives. As their feud boils, so does a hurricane outside. Same deal here as two friends, Rick and Kevin, come to its crossroads. Intentional homage/ripoff or not, it’s too strikingly similar for me to buy into a second time.
Snake Eyes is certainly one of the better films Cage acted in during the mid to late 90’s, that’s for certain. But it doesn’t make it over the hump as anything more than what it is. De Palma still hasn’t ascended to the level of recognition that he can. He’s directed super successful films like Scarface and was impressive early on with cult titles like Carrie, Sisters and Blow Out. Otherwise, he’s meandered through a career of mediocrity and marginal success tied in with big box office winners like Mission: Impossible. Snake Eyes worms its way by as another okay effort from a director who I can’t put my finger on.