I’m kind of having a love affair with Brian de Palma lately. I guess it started a week ago while reading Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography that Palma actually directed his infamous “Dancing in the Dark” music video. For fans of Palma, hearing he had any involvement whatsoever in Springsteen shaking his hips and flailing his arms around seems TOTALLY out of Palma’s character as a director. Who goes from Scarface to Courtney Cox?
But I have to say, “Dancing in the Dark” is both a great song and a great video, and I realized it might be time for me to revisit some of his old work. So I jumped to Snake Eyes, not necessarily a film that you would see on a top 5 list of best Palma movies ever made, but one that is quintessentially de Palma. You’ve got the antihero protagonist in Nick Cage, bursting with his trademark manic energy that he commands your attention every time he’s on screen. Like, he literally commands it, speaking louder than any other character he interacts with. The movie also has the quintessential de Palma directorial style, full of slo-mo cuts, overhead shots, and scenes shot from ground level, giving us an awkward but intimate look at the double chins of each of his stars.
The story is quintessential de Palma as well. Global conspiracy at a major Atlantic City fight night. Seedy cop must bring down decorated military hero. Prized boxer throws a fight at the height of his career. The cashier who worked with Lois on Malcolm in the Middle almost hooks up with Carla Gugino.
It’s stylish and silly, taking itself seriously but not too much. It’s like this is the movie where studios realized they just needed to let Palma be de Palma, giving the director full creative control. And in turn we get the iconic, two-minute long intro shot, some bonafide military malevolence from Gary Sinise, and Nick Cage at his manic best. It certainly isn’t his best film, but it’s the most befitting of who de Palma is as an artist.