Snake Eyes (1998, Brian De Palma)

If we are to become mighty auteurist film scholars, there are worse hazards than having to declare Public Enemies the greatest film of the year when it’s clearly not; we must also face up to people who question our devotion to the less acclaimed directors working in commercial cinema – specifically, girlfriends who frown incredulously, asking “Snake Eyes? The Nicolas Cage movie? I thought you hated him” and co-workers who say, mockingly, “De Palma isn’t even an auteur… he sucks!”

True, Cage is known for being goofy/awful, but I’ve got a soft spot for his early goofy/awesome roles in Raising Arizona and Wild At Heart (and even Bringing Out The Dead), and I still fancy a good Cage cameo in Grindhouse or his less-crazy role in Lord of War. De Palma seems to have been too concerned with his own gigantor-budgeted bag of tricks to worry about Nic’s wild, yelling performance in the opening scenes. After that, he and best friend/worst enemy Gary Sinise calm down to the standard cop-investigation double-cross game.

The quickly-forgotten Round 7 Girl who’s hot for Cage and his pretend hollywood connections, with the assassin above her to the right.

Back to Brian’s bag of tricks: we’ve got cameras through walls and ceilings, split-screen, playback, point-of-view, and long, long shots (the opening sequence, awesomely filmed as it is, has plenty of hidden cuts). It’s bravo filmmaking, but the story dies so hard at the end it seems like Brian has just been giving a turd unprecedented amounts of polish. Everyone online seems to know that a massive sfx tidal-wave-flooding-the-casino ending was cut and replaced by the WTF ending of Sinise shooting open the door where informant Carla Gugino (mom in the Spy Kids series, also in Watchmen) is hiding just as the storm rips the outer wall off the building so an arriving police car can catch him, but why? The current ending (and unnecessary epilogue where Gugino catches up with Cage months later) sucks so hard that throwing a giant tidal wave at the movie could only have improved it. No deleted scenes on the disc, so those of us who don’t buy copies of scripts on L.A. street corners will never know what ending was deemed even worse.

Even if Femme Fatale outdid this one in audacity of plot, this has got plenty to recommend it from a purely De Palma geek-out standpoint.

De Palma takes the split-screen next-level, showing simultaneous actions at one moment, and present-tense Cage split with his recreation of past events at the next:

Ends with a cheesy theme song – what is this, a Bond movie? Batman? Nobody does that anymore.

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