Every other Brian DePalma film seems to be devoted to reminding people of just what a master craftsman Brian DePalma is. Just as Carlito's Way was hailed as DePalma's return to Scarface country and Raising Cain was billed as DePalma's stylistic return to the flashy horror films he made in the early and mid-'70s, Snake Eyes seems like a self-conscious return to the sort of flashy, self-reflexive thrillers he made during the early to mid-'80s (Blow-Out, Body Double). Which is not a bad thing: The first hour or so of Snake Eyes—which follows corrupt cop Nicolas Cage's attempts to uncover an enormous conspiracy revolving around the murder of a prominent politician during a championship prize fight—are as good as anything DePalma has done. That hour exhibits a joy in the possibilities of film not seen since Paul Thomas Anderson's similarly masterful Boogie Nights. Aided by a tense score, ace cinematography, and a typically impressive performance by Cage, Snake Eyes starts as a stylistically brilliant, engaging piece of pulp entertainment. In its second half, however, it steadily loses both its momentum and its focus before stumbling toward the sort of depressing anti-climax you'd expect from your average Bruce Willis thriller. David Koepp's script is functional at best, ultimately devolving from merely passable to actively bad, with the bad guys giving perfunctory speeches explaining how and why they committed their foul deeds. Snake Eyes can't sustain its masterful first hour, but it's better than just about any action movie this year.
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