Snake Eyes
Rating -

Thriller (US); 1998; Rated R; 99 Minutes

Nicolas Cage: Detective Rick Santoro
Gary Sinise: Major Kevin Dunne
Joel Fabiani: S.O.D. Charles Kirkland
Carla Gugino: Julia Costello
John Heard: Gilbert Powell
David Higgins: Ned Campbell
Michael Rispoli: Jimmy George
Stan Shaw: Lincoln Tyler
Chip Zien: Mickey Alter

Produced by Brian De Palma, Gale Anne Hurd, David Koepp, Jeff Levine and Chris Soldo; Directed by Brian De Palma; Screenwritten by Brian De Palma and David Koepp

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Written by DAVID KEYES

Brian DePalma's "Snake Eyes" opens with a spectacular swooping camera shot of Nicholas Cage entering the boxing arena. He is followed through the halls with his cell phone, followed up the stairs, followed through a crowd, all culminating in the arena where a huge gathering has formed to watch a special boxing match. This is a camera shot that renews our faith in DePalma's natural ability to photograph movies in such beautiful ways, and therefore, places our faith in him that he has once again crafted us a great movie.

After this long, stunning shot, we as the audience begin to think that "Snake Eyes" is going to be terrific. But it isn't: the movie retreads the familiar (but still strong) conspiracy formula with not-so-interesting characters and all this extra hoopla to the point where we are no longer obliged to believe DePalma has made another good movie. This time, our faith fades in the shadows just shortly after the movie starts.

The movie is very difficult to keep up with. Cage plays Detective Rick Santoro who, in the first shot, arrives at a boxing arena to place a bet on the heavyweight champion. There, he meets one of his longtime friends, Kevin Dunne, played by Gary Sinise. After chatting to him, than to his wife and kids on the phone, from which the swooping camera shot continues, he sits next to a blonde attractive woman named Julia Costello, played by Carla Gugino who, as we learn later in the film, is there to share some interesting top secret information with the Secretary of Defense. Played by Joel Fabiani, the secretary sits in front of Santoro and Costello, where, before the sold-out boxing match begins, is assassinated by an unknown target. Santoro and Dunne spend the movie trying to track down who is responsible for the secretary's assassination, who they at first feel is linked to the blonde woman who sat behind him.

The movie controls its premise very well, following these two uptown cops who realize after hours of searching and gathering evidence that this assassination has to be a conspiracy.

It's not like I have anything against this familiar conspiracy formula (which I enjoy often), but after the premise settles in the dust just as it should, the movie crumbles into one big mess where the characters spurt out some incredibly dumb dialogue and act like they are in some sort of Spice Girls music video.

What's even more frustrating is the conspiracy itself. When Santoro feels he has gotten a new lead, he goes off in search for it, only to end up finding out that it's false nearly every time. It isn't until one unlikely lead at the end unfolds the ultimate plot, which is so incredibly disappointing that we are often confronted with the urge to 'boo' the screen.

This comes quite as a shock to me, considering that DePalma himself has created some of the greatest films ever made. "Carrie" and "Raising Cain" are two of them, and if you look at those, you wonder how he could get something so screwed up like "Snake Eyes." Perhaps Mr. DePalma is not the great director we think he is.

1998, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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