Friday, March 18, 2011

NIC CAGE MONTH: Snake's Eyes (1998)

Well, got to keep Nic Cage Month rolling somehow, so let’s just dive into 1998’s Snake Eyes, directed by Brian De Palma.

Director: You don't read very well, do you?
Starring: You're not really paying attention, are you?

I know what you’re thinking. Brian De Palma? Didn’t he direct that inimitable gangster classic Scarface? Well, yes. But he also directed the pinnacle of ass-ness known as 2006’s Black Dahlia; a film so horrible that it defies all conventions of horribleness known to man. So what was I supposed to expect from this? Well, it’s a bit in between those two extremes.

I mean, on the one hand, it’s got Nic Cage playing a badass action hero. He does a good job at that, and he does a good job here. His performance is goofy but also heartfelt, and you really get into watching him kick ass as the movie goes on. There are no freak outs in this movie, though. He plays it pretty straight, and overall his performance is acceptable. Carla Gugino is also good as the female lead, mysterious and sexy – you get to see her without a shirt on a few times, if that’s all you care about in a movie chick. She’s pretty convincing, if not a little shallow. I think that’s one of the movie’s main problems – most of these characters are just too shallow. Gary Sinise is especially disappointing. I just didn’t believe his character at all, aided in no small part by the absurd and confusing change his character goes through in the second half.

And the directing is just so sloppy I have a hard time believing that De Palma really thought he was doing a good job. Was he just high the whole time? There are numerous times in this movie where the camera seems to be doing something totally different than what is actually going on in the story. Some of the angles and shots are just awkward as hell. One that I remember in particular is when the camera is doing a bird’s eye view of everything going on in the various hotel rooms. That’s OK, right? Well, yeah, until you PLACE THE BIRD’S EYE VIEW OVER THE TWO CENTRAL CHARACTERS while they’re having a conversation, holding it there like you just went out to lunch and forgot. I mean, come on. This was passed as good directing? It’s not even that stylish. The whole movie is full of weird, awkward shots like that.

So really, with such haphazard directing and uninspired character writing, the only thing that could possibly save this movie was the story, which does admittedly deliver. It’s just a really solid story, and it’s entertaining and engaging even when De Palma is trying his best to screw it up. So yeah, a senator gets killed and everyone is locked inside this boxing arena waiting to be interrogated, while Nic Cage tries to find out who killed the senator and why. He uncovers a big conspiracy, and things get even wackier from there.

So, yeah, this is one of the more average and workmanlike Nic Cage movies. It’s fun, but ultimately shallow and you probably won’t care too much to revisit it after one viewing. Oh and he goes to jail at the end for his crimes. HOORAY FOR BRINGING CORRUPT OFFICIALS TO JUSTICE.

And it isn’t like he doesn’t get Carla Gugino at the end anyway. If he had taken better care of his finances, though, she wouldn’t have had to do Race to Witch Mountain or any Spy Kid movies, and Nic Cage wouldn’t have had to do The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Oops. I have to review that one now, don’t I? Damn.

"You WILL watch me...YOU WILL."