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8mm

movie reviewmovie review out of 4


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



Review by Walter Frith
½ star out of 4

How typical! Joel Schumacher, who is currently destabilizing, dismantling, and destroying the Batman franchise, has taken a different turn, definitely not for the better with his latest effort (ha!) entitled '8MM'. Once again Schumacher (who should be relegated to directing t.v. commercials and music videos) pushes us away instead, and instead of drawing us in, he makes the fatal mistake of handing the audience a movie that has too much literal meaning and not enough space to let the audience digest one course before he crams another down our throats. It would have been a pleasant experience to see this film use violence, pornography and psychotic lunatics as a metaphor for a missing persons case that had great potential contained within its story line. But instead, Schumacher and writer Andrew Kevin Walker ('Seven'), have given us a movie that is as pleasant as going through a fun house with actual booby traps rigged to literally kill you.

Nicolas Cage stars as a Pittsburgh private investigator who takes a case offered to him by a wealthy widow and her business manager/attorney (Anthony Heald). The woman's husband was an industrial czar. Upon settling his estate a strange 8MM film exists that was in his possession that basically turns out to be a sadistic porno film where a young woman is sexually tortured. It's not certain that she was murdered which is the thrust of the case: to find out if she was. Cage finds the girl's mother (Amy Morton) who wants answers in the disappearance of her daughter. His investigation of the case takes him to Los Angeles where he meets a porno shop employee (Joaquin Phoenix) who helps Cage find disruptive and illegal material in porno's sickest places where the young woman in question may have been photographed. Cage's search also takes him to New York where he encounters some seedy and unspeakably evil porno peddlers (James Gandolfini and Peter Stormare) who turn out to be killers in disguise.

1989's 'Field of Dreams' is not a baseball film. It used baseball as a poetic metaphor to help a man "ease his pain" and redeem himself. It's probably the best film in the last decade to find a subject like baseball, and use it as a metaphor to project the image of good story telling. '8MM' goes right for the jugular in all the wrong ways and looks a lot like a big budget porno film and can be described as a movie becoming a victim of its own subject matter that wallows in the excess of its own seediness and has little room for the audience to react in anything more than standard fashion. The film at times just seems to be going through the motions with wooden direction, a bland performance by Cage and a clandestine feeling of being trapped --- already experienced by 1995's 'Seven'.

Another problem with this film is its editing. It's too static at times and too quick at other times and comes across as very sloppy and uneven. Some of the situations and dialogue are also absurd. We see that Cage has a wife (Catherine Keener) and baby daughter and his wife is constantly showing her faithful traits towards her husband and supports him in his career and later in the film, she threatens to leave him if his work continues to dominate his life. A bit much after showing her support earlier in the film. It seems totally out of character for her and a contradiction on the writer's part.

Big, brooding, and unpleasant without making you feel entertained are just some ways to describe '8MM' which is artificial entertainment disguised as a wannabe thriller that had audiences I saw with it, bolt for the door upon the first closing credit on the screen.

Copyright 2000 Walter Frith

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