I'm a big fan of Yakuza films, so when I saw the trailer for "Snake Eyes," I was ecstatic - a gritty, grounded origin of one of G. I. Joe's most beloved characters, in the form of a Japanese mobster movie, seemed too good to be true. And lo and behold, it was! "Snake Eyes" seems to suffer from an identity crisis; there is not enough gangster politics to be a successful gangster movie - there is not enough character development to be a satisfying drama - and perhaps the worst offense: there is not enough well-filmed action for this to be a great action film.
Let's jump right into why "Snake Eyes" isn't a good film - the action. When you hire master choreographers to create beautiful action sequences, why would you then destroy them by choosing to film your action with close-up, handheld, shaky cam? This stylistic decision is infuriating and unforgivable. There was only one sequence in this movie that was well shot; other than that, literally every other single action scene was made incomprehensible due to the filmmaking.
There were so many set pieces that could've been memorable and exciting if only the cameraman would've put the camera on a tripod, prepared a wide shot, and stepped away. You have scenes of small armies engaged in katana-on-katana action, and you won't be able to see any of it because the cameraman is standing two feet away and shaking the camera like it owes him money. This filmmaking decision literally ruined the action in this film, and as a consequence, ruined the film itself - because when the action in your action movie sucks, your movie sucks.
That said, perhaps the storyline and the engaging characters can add some sort of entertainment value? You'd be half right. The story itself is pretty interesting, if not very engaging. There's enough to keep you slightly invested in what's happening and why, but again, everything is framed around terribly filmed action sequences that damper the fun. The acting was serviceable, but nothing too breathtaking. Henry Golding as Snake Eyes had a certain tenacity about him that was fun to watch, but the script seemed to try a little too hard to make him "cool." Samara Weaving was gorgeous, as always, and pretty good here - however, she barely has any screen time, and isn't introduced until about half way through the film. That said, she is a show stealer when she's on screen.
"Snake Eyes" did have some cool cinematography to bask at - if you enjoy Asian cinema, you'll certainly enjoy the look of the film. That said, if you enjoy good action, you're going to despise this movie. I'd recommend only checking this out if you're a big G. I. Joe fan - if you're not? There's a million other Yakuza action films at your disposal; don't waste your time with this.