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Overall Rating

Awesome: 1.1%
Worth A Look: 12.09%
Average: 10.99%
Pretty Bad: 31.87%
Total Crap43.96%

7 reviews, 49 user ratings

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Snake Eyes (1998)
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Rob Gonsalves

"De Palma back on his turf."
4 stars

The key to appreciating 'Snake Eyes' is to be in on the joke -- that is, the ongoing in-joke that is Brian De Palma's career.

De Palma plays with the audience, he plays with the critics (and sure enough, the critics have panned Snake Eyes), and God knows he plays with the camera. De Palma devotes full widescreen close-ups to things that mean nothing, and he gives us teasing, blurry glimpses of crucial events. It's all play, all movie. And De Palma's exerting such ingenuity and energy over a half-baked thriller plot is part of the joke.

De Palma is in command of his material here (he concocted the story with scripter David Koepp) in a way he wasn't in his last film, Mission: Impossible, an empty blockbuster dependent more on impersonal special-effects thrills than on the diabolical perceptual fake-outs that are De Palma's specialty. In Snake Eyes, De Palma hauls out some of his favorite thematic toys to play with: technology, voyeurism, conspiracy/assassination, seduction. The whole movie is on a slant, either shot on a diagonal axis or diagonally bisected, so we get triangles within the rectangular frame -- and within the triangles are the squares of countless monitors and TV sets. De Palma is back working with the geometry of paranoia.

The story itself is a multiple-viewpoint study of one event that De Palma practically blows off in the first half hour -- he's more interested in the twenty-minute tracking shot that opens the movie. The tracking shot serves two purposes: it puts De Palma ahead of every other director who's done it (you can almost hear him echoing the movie's hero: "I am the king!"), and it sketches in the main characters. The shot follows corrupt Atlantic City detective Rick Santoro (Nicolas Cage) as he strolls through a packed stadium on the night of a big boxing match. Rick talks to many people, many of whom turn out to have nothing to do with the action. It's the people he barely notices or doesn't talk to much who turn out to be important -- like the mysterious woman in white (Carla Gugino) sitting next to him, or his friend Major Kevin Dunne (Gary Sinise), who's in charge of security at the stadium.

The Secretary of Defense is at the fight, and he's shot in the throat despite Major Dunne's best efforts to protect him. Why? Who's behind it? I have a feeling De Palma doesn't care, and he doesn't care if you care. (If you do care about such mundane plot-centered stuff, he's saying, then you're a sucker.) In Snake Eyes, as in vintage De Palma, the artifice of moviemaking itself becomes a joke -- only more so here, because it's so visually oriented and visually loaded. De Palma keeps adding lies within lies, like a Chinese box of ambiguous sights and sounds. Characters remember things differently or don't even see things very well; one way or another, everyone is blinded or laboring under their incomplete piece of the puzzle. By the time De Palma breaks out his trademark split-screen, it's a great comic flourish: only by seeing double can we see the truth.

De Palma also has a star who can match his flourishes. Allowed to run loose in this teeming playpen of a movie, Cage struts and hoots his way through a flamboyant peacock's performance that helps to make up for City of Angels. Towards the end, Cage's Rick Santoro takes a turn into tormented sincerity, one of De Palma's few false moves here. Rick's sense of being betrayed doesn't touch us as it's meant to. And his final scene isn't necessary. The scene that plays through the end credits, though, is one of the wittiest and slowest-building jokes De Palma has ever played. In Snake Eyes, De Palma is so confident of his own deceptive mastery that he can make you sit there looking for meaning, laugh at yourself when you realize there is none ... and, while you're laughing, you almost miss a clue that does mean something. Or might mean something.

De Palma is also confident enough in his comic instinct to laugh at those who sit there puzzling over his film. It's a movie. It's a joke. Don't you get it?

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originally posted: 01/14/07 14:42:19
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User Comments

10/26/08 Shaun Wallner Very Boring! 1 stars
1/16/07 Ole Man Bourbon Stupid crap 1 stars
4/11/06 Indrid Cold Not bad at all. Fairly unique and entertaining. 3 stars
12/23/04 Jason Kaul I suppose it could be worse. I would love to see the redhead and Gugino dyke on camera. 3 stars
10/09/04 Denise I love Cage 2 stars
4/19/04 Gobsmack Not great, but Cage's preformance and that AMAZING intro tracking shot make it worthwhile. 4 stars
2/18/04 john incoherent with a truly awful story - painful to watch 1 stars
5/23/03 mr. Pink First twenty minutes are breathtakingly good. But it descends into an awful ending. 3 stars
3/20/03 Jack Sommersby I think this sucks even more than De Palma's "Bonfire of the Vanities". 1 stars
10/27/02 MarktheShark6 Nicholas Cage has had better, but I think the plot here isn't too bad. 3 stars
10/23/02 palaboy101 The VCD promised "a highly entertaining action thriller"... Seeing is truly believing! 2 stars
8/09/01 E-Funk You fucking Hitchcock hack! DePalma, grow a pair! 1 stars
5/05/01 The Moorhen Started off with potential... then Cage came on screen. And all those camera angles - shit 1 stars
3/31/01 Miguel What a piece of shit movie. Brian DePalma and Nic Cage both need to retire like yesterday 1 stars
2/14/01 Jake Much better than the Rock. Ok thats not saying much. LOL 3 stars
10/14/00 Terrie Smith Pretty predictable; hard to keep awake watching this one. 1 stars
1/02/00 Nice Guy Eddie Not a masterpiece but definitely worth the money to rent. 4 stars
12/18/99 Matthew Smith the worst nicholas cage film ever, a dog of a film. 2 stars
9/23/99 Matt Nicolas Cage... ENUF said! This movie SUCKS MAJOR ALL ASS!!! 1 stars
7/19/99 Chef ADogg Cage has now been demoted to the status of taltentless fuckhead 1 stars
4/28/99 NicholasCageSucks Shit on celluloid - worthy of Nicholas Cage! 1 stars
3/16/99 the_machine god-awful, what was Cage thinking? 1 stars
3/15/99 Go Swans Hint to De Palma - hire a scriptwriter next time. This was poor. Very poor. 2 stars
2/23/99 videopirate Carla is a babe 3 stars
1/16/99 Shadow Raider What a hodown. Cage's at it again. Bastard ruined Snake Eyes. 2 stars
12/07/98 Rupert Ritzick That Gary Sinese ain't Japanesee 1 stars
10/24/98 Ash This movie could of been really good but only succeeds in making you look at your watch. 2 stars
10/08/98 Armageddon See this movie for CAGE alone... Not bad, not great. Cage is super. 3 stars
10/07/98 Korny Island Shockingly awful. Depalma has lost the plot. Cage is so ripe for a fall. 1 stars
10/07/98 Scott R Was a good date flick! 3 stars
10/03/98 MR HOLLYWOOD !! NICOLAS TRIES TOO HARD (but still rules) BRIAN DE PALMA is a great!! director....... 3 stars
10/01/98 {{{OZ}}} Daddy Rich is too used to crap. Wouldn't see this again if you paid me. Well, for $50 maybe 1 stars
9/30/98 Daddy Rich Ryan A. doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about. I loved it you shitbag!! 5 stars
9/29/98 Marty in St.Louis The freakin trailer gave away the ENTIRE MOVIE. If it smells like poop it is! 2 stars
9/21/98 Maegs I liked the noirish feel and the opening scene, but the characters were stale. 2 stars
9/18/98 Christian I thought it was a great acyion mystery type film and Cage is great. 4 stars
9/14/98 Chip Taylor End isn't so good but hell half the movies out there have bad plots so .... 4 stars
9/12/98 Bart Barton Cage is way overrated 1 stars
9/07/98 ARMA-FUCK'N-GEDDON Come on, it wasn't THAT bad.. Cage was great, opening scene was great, rest OK at best... 4 stars
9/05/98 Kid Pee-Pee DePalma should be ashamed. This was so bad. How could he leave his name on it? Cage=poison. 1 stars
9/05/98 Jon It TRULY was one of the worst movies I have ever seen---but Nic Cage still rocks (not here) 1 stars
9/04/98 pooky the bald Nic Cage is a complete non talent. This whole film was an excuse for the opening shot. Shit 1 stars
9/04/98 Scott Taylor One of the worst movies I have ever seen. Send it back to hell. 1 stars
8/30/98 Drasord Poor character build-up, weak plot, lacks originality. 3 stars
8/24/98 The Capital City Goofball S.H.I.T. 1 stars
8/23/98 Vincent Watching this makes one wonder how Brian DePalma ever made any GOOD films 2 stars
8/22/98 Mister Whoopee Tedious, convoluted crap 2 stars
8/14/98 sean The assassin and senator die in the first scene. I envied them. 1 stars
8/13/98 {{OZ}} I hear it bites 2 stars
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  30-Jul-1998 (R)
  DVD: 19-Aug-2003



Directed by
  Brian De Palma

Written by
  Brian De Palma
  David Koepp

  Nicolas Cage
  Gary Sinise
  John Heard
  Carla Gugino
  Stan Shaw
  Kevin Dunn

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