Raising Cain

(Brian De Palma, USA, 1992)


There's a suspenseful scene in Brian De Palma's Raising Cain where the disturbed villain (played by John Lithgow) dumps a car with a dead body inside it in the river. When I saw this in a cinema, one audience member actually yelled out: "Hitchcock did that already!"

Poor De Palma; the scene is indeed a homage to a moment in Psycho (1960), but that's no good reason to dismiss every thriller he makes as a pale, tricksy, sub-Hitchcock rip-off. In fact, De Palma's films are highly inventive and modern – and Raising Cain, although far from his best work (like Blow Out, 1981), is definitely worth catching.

If De Palma has taken anything from Hitchcock, it's the dream of the action thriller as a vehicle for pure cinema – and a pure roller coaster ride for the viewer. He has made himself the master of stories which keep switching their main characters and their narrative points of view. To spin the whole contraption even more furiously, he plunges the story-line in and out of flashbacks, memories and dreams.

De Palma aims for an effect of sheer vertigo – until the big, slow-motion finale when half a dozen different lines of action all collide and cancel each other out in a way which is absolutely breathtaking. With its plethora of multiple personalities, shock revelations and labyrinthine complications, Raising Cain delivers admirably on the pure cinema contract.

MORE De Palma: Carlito's Way, Carrie, Casualties of War, Mission to Mars, Mission: Impossible, Scarface, Snake Eyes, Sisters

© Adrian Martin May 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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