Brian De Palma has spent so much of his career ripping off filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchcock and Martin Scorsese -- and gotten so sick of being criticized for it -- that is was probably a great relief to him when he finally managed to establish his own box-office success with "Mission: Impossible." Now, as cinema's resident kleptomaniac, he can guiltlessly steal from himself.
De Palma wastes no time: "Snake Eyes" utilizes the very technique in "Mission: Impossible" by which plot details are illuminated by looking at the same scene from several different perspectives. Thus, after the Secretary of Defense is shot during a boxing match and Detective Rick Santoro (Nicolas Cage) starts going over the details with those involved, we get to see several different points of view of the same event.
We see through the eyes of the heavyweight champ (Stan Shaw) as he seems to take a dive, through the eyes of Julia Costello (Carla Gugino) as she sits down at an odd time wearing a wig, and through the eyes of Navy Commander and security chief Kevin Dunne (Gary Sinise) as he disappears at a very inappropriate moment. As ever, De Palma proves himself the master of overkill, beating his technique until it's limp and drained, leaving audience members to wonder how many more quarters they're going to have to plug into the machine to get to an actual plot point.
Speaking of spent, who's picking Nicolas Cage's scripts these days? The guy wins an Oscar and in no time he reverts back to the days of "Vampire's Kiss." In "Snake Eyes," his character is about one amphetamine away from trying to devour every cockroach in the arena. Santoro is, in fact, a bloodsucker of sorts -- on the take from the opening scene. The film pivots on his sudden transformation from bottom-feeder to saint, an inversion necessary to the plot, but about as likely as an HMO executive deciding to join the Peace Corps and start healing people instead of killing them to increase profit margins.
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