Rick Santoro (Nicolas Cage) is a cop who loves his job, or rather he loves the opportunities to make money that it offers. Take tonight: a World Heavyweight Boxing Championship title fight where he can stand to make a lot of money on gambling, this is Atlantic City after all, and he chases down a few bets just before the contest is about to start. Also in attendance is the Government Defense Secretary who sits near the ringside, where Rick's seat is placed, although he's more interested in talking to his old friend Commander Kevin Dunne (Gary Sinise) in charge of security...
And what a great job he does, well, apart from the fact that the politician gets assassinated within about a minute of the fight beginning which understandably throws the cat amongst the pigeons for the rest of the movie. If you didn't pick up on everything that was going on in that first, near-fifteen minute long tracking shot, then don't be too downhearted because it was designed to look as chaotic as possible, from David Koepp's script subjecting the viewer to a barrage of information to Cage's way over the top performance.
You may be contemplating the notion that maybe the filmmakers didn't really care if you were keeping up or not, but stick with it and you'll see they simply wanted you to be patient, as director Brian De Palma's long implemented study of the elastic, even malleable, nature of reality born from poring over conspiracy journals was well to the fore, inviting you not to take all you experienced at face value. As with many of the more famous conspiracies, there was an assassination plot being detailed here, and the one most in mind for De Palma (who came up with the story behind the script) was the Robert F. Kennedy murder.
Specifically one aspect of it that always made it seem more suspicious and open to question than others in its field, and that was the woman in the polka dot dress who was seen running away from the site of the killing yelling in joy "We got him!" She has never been identified, but here the film took that mystery figure and split her into two separate characters, one good and one bad. The bad is a redhead in a red dress (Jayne Heitmeyer) who distracts Dunne, the good is Carla Gugino in a blonde wig and white suit who makes a point of talking to the victim before he dies. They both know something is going on, and Rick should really be making it his business to speak with both of them.
Cage may have started out offputting, chewing the scenery in his inimitable fashion, but he settles down and arguably presents a better reading of a corrupt cop finding his decent side than he ever did in Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant remake. If there were problems with Snake Eyes, they were not down to De Palma's direction, which is predicably impeccable in his masterfully cold-hearted way with thrillers, but with the studio interference after the tidal wave climax the movie was obviously building to was ditched at the last minute, leaving all these references to the storm outside the hotel arena complex and having them go nowhere in particular. Such was the air of mounting dread, an explosive denouement would have seemed the proper way to cap this style-filled effort off, but while the conspiracy is exposed, it does go out with more of a whimper than a bang. Put that to the back of your mind, and Snake Eyes was still worth watching, rightly called underrated. Music by Ryûichi Sakamoto.
He's not aversed to directing blockbusters such as Scarface, The Untouchables and Mission Impossible, but Bonfire of the Vanities was a famous flop and The Black Dahlia fared little better as his profile dipped in its later years, with Passion barely seeing the inside of cinemas. Even in his poorest films, his way with the camera is undeniably impressive. Was once married to Nancy Allen.