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Snake Eyes

Year: 1998
Studio: Paramount
Director: Brian De Palma
Producer: Brian De Palma
Writer: David Koepp/Brian De Palma
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Gary Sinise, Carla Gugino, Kevin Dunn, Luis Guzman

Known mostly for its early tracking shot (20 minutes, if you're that keen), this De Palma movie was mostly maligned and forgotten but it's a neat, slick little thriller with a few non-confirming touches that deserves a chance.

The first touch is star Cage, overlapping with manic charisma and carrying the whole film on his shoulders. Second is the distinctive setting, a title fight in Atlantic City with a tropical storm bearing down. Trivia hounds will know the final ending originally contained a long CGI shot of a tidal wave sweeping through the arena that was subsequently cut. While it would have looked cool I also think it would have lifted the film into territory it didn't belong in.

The plot is Hitchockian, not the first or last time De Palma's done something like it, or made a success of it. The thrilling long shot contains a conspiracy playing out in front of fun loving cop Rick Santoro (Cage). He's in town to meet his friend Kevin (Sinise) to watch the boxing match, a man very high up in the defense department.

As Rick tries to enjoy the fight we see an unknown blonde arguing heatedly with the defense secretary, who's also in the crowd. A phone call comes through to Rick to watch for his lucky number. A random drunk in the crowd shouts out the line 'here comes the pain', a shot rings out and the secdef is down.

The camera sweeping around the stadium and the activity gives you the real sense you're watching crucial clues, which makes it very exciting. In comparison the rest of the film, while engaging, is a little bit of a let down as Santoro leads us on a more traditional procedural to try and get to the bottom of it. The twist isn't a big surprise but the payoff is good and De Palma deserves more kudos for it.

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