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movie reviewmovie review out of 4

*Also starring: Catherine Keener, Myra Carter, James Gandolfini, Anthony Heald, Peter Stormare, Christopher Bauer

Review by MrBrown
2 stars out of 4

As his follow-up to the candy-colored camp catastrophe that was _Batman_&_Robin_, director Joel Schumacher has gone to the opposite extreme with the lurid thriller _8MM_. Schumacher obviously intended this down-and-dirty film to cleanse his artistic soul, and while _8MM_ certainly is better than that infamous franchise killer (then again, what wouldn't be?), the film is grainy and unfocused as the object at the center of the plot.

That object is a so-called "snuff" film, a pornographic work in which the woman is killed. The film is found in the safe of a recently deceased millionaire, and private detective Tom Welles (Nicolas Cage) is hired by the millionaire's widow (Myra Carter) to investigate its origin and track down the family of the young girl who was brutally killed in it.

The mystery is just a perfunctory device for screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker to get to his main concern, which is the psychological effects Tom feels takes when he becomes immersed in the seedy world of underground porn. But did it have to be so perfunctory? Walker doesn't even bother to hide the fact that it is a mere device. The mystery is more or less resolved in an overblown sequence that comes at the end of act two, and the revelations are contrived and incredibly underwhelming. While that may be some sort of sly in-joke on Walker's part, to the viewer, it is simply an unsatisfying cheat.

But once the mystery is out of the way, and Walker frees himself to zero in on Tom's psyche, the movie does get better, and it finally gives Cage something meaty to work with. The pain and anguish of his downward spiral are acutely felt through Cage's chillingly convincing performance. But by this point, the movie is nearly over, with two-thirds of it having been spent on characters plot mechanics that, for the most part, bear little to no weight in the end.

_8MM_ is a competent attempt by Schumacher to reclaim his directorial voice after suffering the grind of a blockbuster studio franchise. Yet while a directorial voice does rings throughout _8MM_, it is not Schumacher's--rather, it's that of David Fincher, helmer of Walker's _Se7en_; Schumacher apes his style from the ample rain to the deliberate pacing. _8MM_ may indeed be a step up from Schumacher's last film, but he still has a few more steps to go before recapturing his own artistic identity.

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