Snake Eyes (1998)
Crime, Mystery, Thriller
dir. Brian De Palma
Have never watched a De Palma movie. Yes, not even Scarface. I'm also not smart enough nor well-watched(?) enough to have any insight on De Palma's films being meta-commentaries on the medium of film itself, but I can say that Snake Eyes is a very entertaining, very well-directed pulp mystery thriller.

Right off the bat you're sort of jammed into the world of Snake Eyes. The setting and environment can only be described as chaotic. There's a hurricane, also there's a fight going on, and it's in a casino, and you get this long shot of Nicolas Cage walking around the fighting arena talking to various eclectic characters (including his wife and his girlfriend). De Palma gives you no time to breathe within the first couple minutes of the film: you are here for the ride.

Something that I particularly like about the film is that every character here is pretty much a slimeball--an exception made for Julia Costello, the gorgeous AirGuard whistleblower. Nicolas Cage's character, Rick Santoro, is a cop, and a very sleazy one at that. In the opening minutes of the film De Palma basically hammers you in the head with the notion that he's a morally questionable guy: he makes illegal bets on the fighters, he facilitates transactions for shady criminal figures, he extorts, he cheats on his wife, he lies, etc. Contrast this with Commander Kevin Dunne, an upstanding U.S. military commander who is there attending the fight to protect the Secretary of the State, and who is, as De Palma also tries to hammer in, a morally 'good' guy. He is loyal to his wife, he's never done anything sleazy in his life, what have you; this portrait of his character doesn't last very long though.

There's a scene I liked in the movie where Santoro is in the surveillance camera room--I think that's what you call it--trying to determine what exactly went down during the murder of the Secretary. He analyzes the fight footage and notices that Lincon Tyler, the heavyweight boxing champion, gets "knocked out" by a phantom punch. I thought that was a funny little tidbit because pretty much all the fight scenes, if you analyze the footage like Santoro does, are phantom punches. Just something I found amusing.

Other than that, this a very well-constructed thriller. It keeps you on your toes and doesn't waste time. I will say that I felt like it dragged on just a tad bit at the end, but that doesn't really detract all that much from the film. The most obvious highlight of the film is Cage's acting. There are those who criticize Cage for 'overacting' in a lot of his films, and they do so as a jab towards his acting props. And to that I say, fuck you, he's awesome.

Rating: Cage should play more characters with oily greaseball charisma