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Snake Eyes is a perfect example of a cinematic roller coaster: the film rises to an all time, thrilling high and then plummets right down into dull and monotonous scenarios. In fact, the only thing that director Brian De Palma proves with this rather tame who done it is that he is a better scene maker than he is a filmmaker. Make no mistake - the first half-hour or so of Snake Eyes is dynamite cinema. And most of the rest is absolute trash.
Nicholas Cage, one the screens most pleasing performers, and Gary Sinise, a man who often brings third dimensions into 2D characters, should have been together on screen a long time ago. It came as a massive disappointment to me that these two fine actors - who share between them such titles as The Rock, Face/Off, Forrest Gump and Ransom - have chosen such a bumpy and inconsistent vehicle for their first joint effort.
Cage is Rick Santoro, a gleeful American cop whose morals are easily corrupted at the sight of dollar bills. At a heavyweight championship fight, Santoro is having a night off, and his best friend Naval Commander Kevin Dunne (Sinise) is guarding the US Secretary of Defense. Shots are fired from somewhere in the stadium - seconds after one of the boxers gets knocked out - and Dunne is off chasing a suspicious red head. Another mysterious woman is at the scene, and gets showed by the blood of the now shot Secretary.
De Palma begins the film with a lengthy sweeping shot of the stadium; the cameras following Santoro everywhere as he moves around the venue. Cinematographer Stephen Burum captures the atmosphere of the sports arena perfectly, and De Palma never lets the excitement drop before introducing the mystery. And what a disappointing mystery it is, since the screenwriters - De Palma and David Koepp (Jurassic Park, Men in Black) - haven't written the film smartly enough to maintain a high amount of tension, but smartly enough to add an occasional glimpse of tension. It's all pretty frustrating to watch, since Snake Eyes constantly changes its pace and style; at one time being a heart-pumping thriller and another a bland and predictable "thriller".
Perhaps the most daunting of all flaws in this film is its unsatisfying and apathetic ending; where something as stupid as a change in weather determines the fate of one particular character. Another commits suicide, having spent the entire duration as a potentially interesting character but still seems distanced from the audience.
If people are going to insist on continuing to compare Brian De Palma to the late and great Alfred Hitchcock, they must remember that it takes a great director to build a genuinely suspenseful, thrilling and exciting scenario. To keep that up for the entire film - now that would be something special.
|(c) Luke Buckmaster|
Australian theatrical release date: October 1 1998
|Just the facts:
Title: Snake Eyes (199)
|The Players: Nicolas Cage, Gary Sinise, Kevin Dunn, Carla Gugino, Luis Guzman, John Heard, Stan Shaw||Official website|
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Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Filed: Oct, 1998 Last updated: Last tested: 3-Jul-2014 Last Compiled: 3-Jul-2014
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