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IN SHORT: Not your average Joel Schumacher flick
Long time readers of these pages have seen it documented many, many times... Cranky hasn't had many good things to say about the movies made by director Joel Schumacher over the last four or five years. So I don't know what it means when the man turns out a film that, at its most basic levels of logical construction and continuity, is well made. That is not to say I liked the film, whose subject matter is particularly distasteful. I did not not like it, so I guess that means JS has broken his losing streak on these boards.
Schumacher's 8mm is a bloody and brutal flick, distasteful and violent verging on pornographic. It is set in the scum encrusted underbelly of porn and the slime that make their living from exploitation of young flesh and there is absolutely nothing sexy about it. Calling the experience of watching 8mm distasteful would be accurate but it would fail to reflect the fact that the story makes a point about how seeming normal people can be even more corrupt than the flesh peddlers of porn; of how a man who is (for the most part) non-violent, can be pushed to a murderous edge and justify it.
Take Tom Welles (Nicolas Cage) for example. A licensed, private investigator who lives in a small house in a wooded suburban area near Harrisburg Pennsylvania with his wife Amy (Catherine Keener) and baby daughter Cindy, lovingly nicknamed Cinderella. Welles' business is small time, mostly cheating spouses and the like. A call from a lawyer named Longdale (Anthony Heald) is his introduction, he thinks, to high powered and higher paying work for the upper ranks of society.
Longdales's client is the widow of a very powerful man. In the private safe of the deceased is a reel of eight millimeter film which, in porno parlance, is a snuff film. The widow, Mrs. Christian (Myra Carter) hires Welles to discover the identity of the girl in the film and, more important, to establish if the murder seen in the film actually happened.
8mm is scripted by Andrew Kevin Walker, the man who wrote Seven. That alone should be a good clue that 8mm will deliver a very clever, and stomach churning experience. As with Seven, Walker seems to know just how far he can push the audience and Joel Schumacher's visual direction adds another layer to the uneasiness we feel. Schumacher delicately dances around the images seen in the film. As Cage watches it, we see enough of the "actual" movie to get an idea where it's going, but we are not treated to the vile climax. If that fact disappoints you, you are a real sick puppy.
8mm treads that grey area between morbid fascination with this sick aspect of porn and the murder mystery that unravels in the actual film story. Welles manages to uncover the identity of the girl in the film, and finds an ally in a LA porn store clerk named Max (Joaquin Phoenix), his key to the underbelly of sleaze. From there on in, things get more unpleasant as Welles finds the producer who made the deal (James Gandolfini), the "artiste" named Dino Velvet (Peter Stormare) that shot the pic, and the leather masked Machine that killed. These lowlife scum are more evil than you think and nastier than you could believe and when the search puts his family in danger, Cage's character cracks.
8mm is not a movie you will walk out of smiling. There is no happy theme song to hum. Nicolas Cage's performance as a straight arrow guy who is corrupted by his experience is masterful. Period. If that's enough to offset the bad taste in your mouth, then you're one up on the rest of the world.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to 8mm, he would have paid...
Hell if I know. This doesn't fit the parameters of Cranky's scale. It isn't a date movie and it isn't a straight out scare you in your seats flick. The acting is fine, the script is creepy, the entire experience is disturbing and unpleasant so we'll call it a
and recommend it, now that you are forewarned.
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