#REVIEW: “SNAKE EYES”
By George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
Director Robert Schwentke‘s SNAKE EYES opens with a son and his dad on vacation deep in the woods, when his father is attacked at home and killed by unknown villains due to a bad roll of the dice. Having witnessed the execution, the son escapes into the dark forest; physically, but not emotionally, unscathed. Fast-forward 20 years: the son, nameless and only responding to “Snake Eyes” (played by Henry Golding), is a drifter who survives on the prize money winnings after brutalizing opponents in the underground fight clubs where he catches the attention of Kenta (Takehiro Hira), a Yakuza boss who offers him a job which includes hiding guns in the bellies of gutted fish. When ordered by Kenta to kill Tommy (Andrew Koji) an alleged spy, Snake balks and, instead, helps Tommy escape while fighting off a horde of sword-wielding Yakuza gangsters. A fortuitous choice as Tommy is an heir to a rich family in Japan that seem hellbent on saving and guarding traditional Japanese values as well as a piece of a glowing rock heirloom called the Jewel of the Sun. After arriving in Japan in Tommy‘s private jet, Snake is now his right-hand man and is trained by masters while helping the family adapt to a modern world. We eventually learn that Snake is also a double agent and continues to keep Kenta apprised of situations in Japan as he is promised that he will be able to avenge his father’s murder.
SNAKE EYES is a successful summer Popcorn Movie. Whereas there are more fight sequences than the traditional movie action sequences, the swordplay battles are superbly-choreographed, hyper-kinetically charged and relatively free of gratuitous bloodshed (which made this squeamish audience member very happy!). The Cinematography is astonishing, from outdoor scenes illuminated with hundreds of lanterns to a fight scene in the pouring rain against a background of fluorescent neon lights, this movie visually bedazzles. The Costume Designs intrigue (think “The Matrix” meets “The Seven Samurai” with a Zara sensibility) and the score by Martin Todsharow is a unique blend of Asian influences and traditional action fare. I am also impressed with Henry Golding‘s career trajectory. From making a worldwide smash as a romantic lead with “Crazy Rich Asians” to playing a gay man rediscovering his familial routes in Vietnam in “Monsoon“, I was initialling concerned if he could be a convincing action hero. He did. He can. And his performance outweigh the others as theirs sometimes bordered on parody.
Another reason why SNAKE EYES fails to make my “you must see this movie” from it’s current “you should see this movie” mantra is its dialogue. It’s telling that it took three Screenwriters and still we only get one tired old cliche after another to the point I honestly thought someone would say “snatch the pebble from my hand, Grasshopper”. And the less said about CGI anacondas, the better.
However, I enjoyed being swathed in a world of Ninjas and the Yakuza and the streets of Tokyo and really cool looking motorcycles and deceptions and honour and Martial Arts. I may have rolled my eyes a few times, but they were mostly glued to what SNAKE EYES presented with visual panache.
Paramount Pictures Canada release SNAKE EYES July 23, 2021.
*Please ensure you exercise caution in observing COVID-19 protocols if seeing this in-theatre.*